AHA Activities

AHA Membership Committee Calls for Suggestions and Improvements

AHA Staff, February 1991

The new Membership Committee of the Association would like to hear from members who have suggestions for stimulating the growth of the AHA and providing improved services to members. Appointed just over a year ago by the Council, on the recommendation of the 1988 Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of the AHA, the committee, chaired by Robert L. Harris, Jr., Cornell University, met in New York on December 28 to review the last two years' membership statistics and reflect on a series of surveys of the profession, both its academic and public history branches.

The Membership Committee submitted a list of fifteen specific recommendations to the Council, some of which require further study, but many of which can be implemented rapidly. The items that require further study or referral to other committees include: a proposal to create an emeritus or retired membership dues category rather than as at present relying on retirees to adjust their membership to a lower-income dues category; a suggestion that the Program Committee adopt sessions specifically for graduate students on topics such as job interviewing and job seeking; another to encourage program committees to diversify sessions to include a greater variety of historical work, such as exhibits, films, and interpretation of material culture; a recommendation that obsolete teaching pamphlets be weeded out; a request to determine the percentage of AHR book reviewers who are AHA members; and a suggestion to consider a special membership category for public historians analogous to the new K–12 teacher membership (See Washington Notes, page 2.)

Recommendations that will be implemented as soon as possible include: recruitment and congratulatory letters to new PhD recipients; a greater price difference between members and non-members for AHA publications; resuming special annual meetings with affiliated society representatives to improve cooperation and cement closer relations; special follow-up recruiting letters to lapsed members of less than two years of absence from the rolls; publishing in Perspectives lists of names of 25-year members; honoring 50-year members by listing their names in the Annual Meeting Program and honoring them at the business meeting; redesigning the membership renewal notice and ID card along more durable and pleasing lines; and sending recruiting letters to non-members who are listed in the AHA's Directory of History Departments and Organizations. The Committee will also carry out this spring plans to recruit more graduate student members and a study of how the Association might better address the needs of historians at two-year institutions.

Finally, the Membership Committee recommended the AHA reaffirm its commitment to an inclusive definition of the historical profession by reprinting in Perspectives the statement included in the 1988 report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of the AHA. The Council concurred. The 1988 report states:

"...the history profession should be defined as those individuals who have graduate degrees or some formal training in history and who practice or have practiced history either in teaching or research or both. Both teaching and research are used in the broad sense established in the AHA's Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct. Teaching, according to the statement, encompasses a wide range of efforts at communication and dissemination in varied settings–museums and historic sites as well as classrooms–and involves the use of visual materials and artifacts as well as words. The committee also endorses the definition of research used in the statement, 'the uncovering and exchange of new information and the shaping of interpretations. ... The profession communicates with students in textbooks and classrooms; to other scholars and the general public in books, articles, exhibits, films, and historic sites and structures; and to decision-makers in memoranda and testimony.'"

The Membership Committee calls for interested members to communicate to it or its members their ideas for enhancing the Association and promoting its continued growth.

Robert L. Harris, Jr., Cornell University, chair

Jere Bacharach, University of Washington

Nadine Hata, El Camino Community College

Marilynn Jo Hitchens, Wheat Ridge High School, Denver

Gale Peterson, Cincinnati Historical Society

Alice Reagon, University of Maryland, graduate student

Roy Rosenzweig, George Mason University