From the Executive Director
Washington Notes, February 1991
Samuel R. Gammon, February 1991
The end of each calendar year for the last 102 years has seen the American Historical Association convened in its annual meeting, and December 27–30, 1990, found over 3900 members and other historians assembled in New York City for the fourteenth time since 1896. The meeting was held in the New York Hilton and Sheraton Centre hotels and was an outstanding success, with many words of praise from attendees for the excellent program and smooth local arrangements. The end of next December will see the next-to-last December meeting convening in Chicago. After a final December outing in 1992 in Washington, annual meetings will be held the first weekend in January.
Annual meetings are primarily a "show and tell" for historians to present findings from the frontiers of historical research, in 140 AHA sessions and dozens of sessions of affiliated organizations meeting collaterally with the Association. The meeting also serves as a major interview rendezvous for headhunters and job hunters, a major exhibition of publishers' historical products, a venue for business meetings of organizations, and an occasion for celebrations of outstanding historical works and workers. (Honored works and honored historians are reported under Annual Meeting Highlights beginning on page 10 of this issue.)
December also regularly sees two sessions at the AHA Annual Meeting of the elected governing Council and meetings of important committees, such as the Committee on Women Historians, the Membership Committee, the National Coordinating Committee, and this year the first steps of the newly appointed AHA Committee on Minority Historians. The Membership Committee Report begins on page 3 and the report from the Committee on Women Historians will appear in the March issue of Perspectives.
The AHA Council began its December 27th session expressing its sorrow at the sudden death last fall of Teaching Division Vice President Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau by resolving to keep her name on the roster of officers through the end of her term.
Turning then to regular business, it approved the Committee on Committees recommendations for dozens of appointments to fill vacancies on standing and ad hoc committees. (To be published in a future issue of Perspectives.) It directed the Committee on Affiliated Societies to review critieria for affiliation with the AHA, and approved affiliation of the Renaissance Society of America and the Social Science History Association. Council requested more information from two other candidate societies and rejected one application as inappropriate.
On Teaching Division concerns, the Council approved creation of a new regular membership category designed for K–12 teachers, which will include the option of receiving material from the Organization of History Teachers and The History Teacher in lieu of the AHR. It authorized Association participation in and financial support of the National History Education Network, a new grouping to extend historical organizations' influence into state educational establishments.
The Council also acted on two prizes of concern to the Teaching Division. The James Harvey Robinson Prize for the best teaching aid was changed to make it a biennial rather than a triennial prize and opened it to nonmembers, as well as giving the winner a complimentary one-year membership. The Council accepted the custody and operation of the new Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship Award, which was announced at the general meeting, and which will be awarded beginning next year.
Research Division interests acted on by the Council included the establishment of an annual nomination and appointment process for honorary foreign members rather than an alternate year procedure.
On the recommendation of the Division, the Alexis de Tocqueville Prize, for the best book on United States history published by a foreign scholar outside the United States, is to be recast by enlisting cooperation from the American Studies Association and the OAH, and basing it on a search rather than an over-the-transom process.
The Council also approved the Research Division's vigorous encouragement of alternatives to the defunct AHA bibliographic periodical Recently Published Articles and its contacts with publishers in this endeavor.
The Professional Division's draft revision of a statement on AHA nominations and appointments and encouragement of diversity was approved with modest changes as a future guide for the annual Nominating Committee and Committee on Committees activities. The statement will be published in the March issue of Perspectives.
The second, year-end Council meeting, on the morning of December 30th, is traditionally devoted to the near future. The New York meeting was no exception; the Council heard a report from the 1991 Program Committee Chair, Linda Hall, University of New Mexico, and saw to the appointment of a local arrangements committee chair, Albert Erlebacher, DePaul University, for the Chicago Annual Meeting next December. The chair and co-chair of the 1992 Program Committee, Frederick E. Hoxie, Newberry Library, and JoAnn McNamara, Hunter College, CUNY, also met with the Council, which approved their early plans for committee membership. As members will recall, the co-chairs of a succeeding year's program are members of the current year's Program Committee throughout its life. This practice was initiated last fall to provide for continuity in program planning.
The Council then concluded by hearing a report from the Membership Committee (see above) and from one of its members who had attended the special meeting of concerned scholars, on the evening of December 28th, to discuss the Persian Gulf Crisis. The Council's impression from the oral report was that the group's requests and recommendations appeared to be an appropriate expression of scholars' and teachers' professional interests and looked forward to receipt of a detailed report to see how the Association might take action.