AHA Activities

Expanding the O'Connor Film Award

Dana Schaffer, March 2015

The American Historical Association is pleased to announce the expansion of the John E. O’Connor Film Award to recognize outstanding interpretations of history through the medium of film or video. Formerly awarded only to documentaries, beginning in 2015 the prize may be awarded in each of two categories: dramatic feature and documentary. Winning films will be screened at the AHA’s annual meeting if appropriate permissions can be obtained.

Films and videos (including web-based films) produced in 2013 or 2014 are eligible for the 2015 award and will be assessed according to the following criteria:

  • Stimulation of Interest in History: The production should arouse interest in the past and encourage viewers to ask questions about historical interpretations.
  • Imaginative Use of the Media: The production should provide a unique perspective on the past through compelling use of aural and visual techniques and narrative structure. Successful nominees may take a wide variety of approaches to the past, including innovative presentational approaches beyond the traditional linear narrative.
  • Effective Presentation of Historical Subject: The production should communicate its subject in ways that engage and enlighten viewers and encourage them to seek additional insights through reading and other media. It should be informed by trends in recent historical scholarship and make a contribution, in its own right, to the public’s understanding of and appreciation for history.

To ensure that AHA members play a meaningful part in the nomination process, we encourage members to nominate, endorse, and comment on films through the AHA’s Communities page at www.historians.org/oconnor-nominations. To be considered, nominated films are required to receive at least one additional endorsement from an AHA member, including those on the prize review committee. We hope the AHA Communities page will serve as an engaging forum for historians to discuss the merits of each nominated film.

For details about eligibility and the nomination process, visit www.historians.org/awards-and-grants/awards-and-prizes/john-e-oconnor-film-award.

The AHA established the O’Connor Film Award in 1992 in recognition of John E. O’Connor (New Jersey Inst. of Technology) for his exceptional role as a pioneer in both teaching and research on film and history. The honorific award was given annually from 1993 to 2012, when it was temporarily suspended to allow for an award review committee and the AHA’s Research Division to reconsider the prize framework and nomination procedures. The AHA wishes to thank the members of the review committee for their work in revising the prize: Robert Rosenstone (California Inst. of Technology), Heide Fehrenbach (Northern Illinois Univ.), and Vincent Brown (Harvard Univ.).

Dana Schaffer is the AHA’s associate director.


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