1995 Annual Report of the Vice President of the AHA Research Division
The Research Division struggled throughout 1995 with several thorny and ongoing problems related to research funding, archival access, and the maintenance of appropriate opportunities for scholarly research. It gained great satisfaction, however, from the appointment of Michael Grossberg as editor of the American Historical Review. Grossberg succeeds David Ransel, whose successful tenure at the AHR is described on page 5 of this issue of Perspectives.
Members will recall that last year the division conducted a comprehensive review of the journal, as mandated by Association by-laws. Last spring the AHA Council appointed a sixperson search committee, which worked through the fall and winter. In March the committee unanimously recommended to the Council the appointment of Michael Grossberg, who was then editor of the Law and History Review and chair of the history department at Case Western Reserve University. The Council accepted our nomination unanimously and with real enthusiasm. Professor Grossberg assumed his duties at the American Historical Review in September.
In reaching its decision, the search committee reviewed more than 40 formal applications. Committee members included Lynn Hunt (Univ. of Pennsylvania; French and European political, social, and cultural history); Carol Gluck (Columbia Univ.; modem Japanese intellectual and cultural history); Steven Stowe (Indiana Univ.; US. social and political history, history of the South); Ann Carmichael (Indiana Univ.; late medieval and early modem European history, history of medicine); Richard Blackett (U.S. Afro-American social and cultural history, history of the Caribbean), and myself (Univ. of Michigan; Russian and Soviet political and social history). The size and diversity of the group facilitated an extensive search.
The committee sought candidates with three recognizable qualities: distinguished scholarship, capacity for editorial and administrative management, and both the temperament for and interest in the kind of consultation beyond one's area of scholarly expertise that the committee deemed necessary to maintain the established quality of the journal. The committee also regarded intellectual openness, curiosity, a capacity for judgment, and a willingness to work closely with a distinguished and diverse editorial board as essential elements for candidacy. We did not think the Review was in any way “broken." Quite the contrary. Hence we recognized that the distinguished position the Review now occupies in the world of historical scholarship could be compromised by an editor determined to "fix" it in a particular way. In sum, we looked for someone determined to maintain the Review’s position of intellectual leadership in ways that recognized its responsibilities and obligations to a broad and diverse scholarly readership. We are confident and pleased that Michael Grossberg more than fulfills these demanding criteria.
While engaged in the search for anew editor, the division also continued the less rewarding struggle to remedy problems of leadership and administration in both the National Archives and the Library of Congress. Despite our best efforts, which included a meeting with the White House personnel staff, as well as the best efforts of others, especially Page Putnam Miller of the National Coordinating Committee, President Clinton disregarded what we believed was a clear legislative mandate to appoint a professional nonpartisan to head the National Archives. He chose instead former Kansas Governor George Carlin. By all accounts, Carlin is an able manager, however inexperienced he may be in archival administration. Since his confirmation, the division and the staff of the Association have therefore worked with other interested groups to assure that our voices are heard on issues of access, declassification, and especially the administration of the presidential libraries. In September a special meeting was held at AHA headquarters to discuss in particular the ongoing task of finding an appropriate head for the U.S. presidential libraries, and to deal with continued problems of assuring that all presidential records, including electronic communications, be preserved and available for scholarly use.
The division continued as well its involvement with problems of archival administration elsewhere throughout the course of the year, especially in eastern Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union. In April the Final Report of the Joint Task Force on Archives was presented to both the AHA and the American Council for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. Copies are available from AHA headquarters, thanks to a grant from the International Research and Exchange Board.
To our dismay/little progress was made in the course of the year toward resolving a number of issues concerning the Library of Congress. Two years ago, the Research Division reported at the annual meeting its "deepest concern over the endangered state of the Library of Congress" and its unanimous decision to seek a comprehensive study of the problem by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). Last year I indicated that the ACLS had been unable to secure funding for this study, and to date it has not been conducted. Meetings were held again throughout the year with other interested groups about the ongoing problems of area studies reading rooms, hours, and our members' serious concerns about problems of access more generally. No quick remedies appear in the offing.
The threat to National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funding also preoccupied the Research Division throughout the spring and summer. In May and June, the division worked with headquarters staff in a comprehensive effort to mobilize history department chairs to lobby their congressional representatives concerning the specific benefits the NEH had brought to their departments and districts. As members are undoubtedly aware, funding was subsequently continued for the NEH at reduced levels. While this is properly regarded by many as a significant victory, the Research Division remains concerned that celebration not temper the ongoing threat we perceive to future endowment programs and support. We have communicated these concerns to our colleague Sheldon Hackney, chair of the NEH.
At both our spring and fall meetings, the division took up the question of AHA participation in the Mellon Foundation's Journal Storage Project (J-STOR), Past issues of the American Historical Review will soon be available electronically through this project, together with a number of other leading scholarly journals, Our friends at Mellon have been eager to include current issues of the AHR in this project as well, an additional step that the division feels raises new and important issues about the effects of electronic publishing on scholarship more generally. (The AHR already makes its tables of contents for current issues, including book reviews, as well as descriptions of articles available through its World Wide Web page at http://www,indiana.edu/-amhrev /.) The division dearly recognizes the importance of disseminating work electronically and understands the great value of the J-STOR project in these terms. It also believes that this new medium may have serious implications for the way scholarship in history and the humanities is undertaken, presented, and reviewed, both to domestic and to international audiences. The division believes we may be at an important crossroads in the history of scholarly publication and dissemination, and therefore believes additional study and reflection are necessary before putting current issues of the journal online. We have proposed that a three-part study be undertaken on the effects of electronic distribution on the nature of a scholarly journal, on the membership base and other attributes of scholarly associations like the AHA, and on association revenues and finances. The Organization of American Historians, the History of Science Society, and several other groups have expressed an interest in participating in such an enquiry, and we are currently seeking funding to support it.
At its April and November meetings, the division reviewed approximately 225 applications for the Beveridget Kraus, Littleton-Griswold, and Schmitt research grant programs, and awarded a little more than $20,000 to 39 individuals. Grants averaged $500.
In April the division voted unanimously to recommend Halil Inalcik from Turkey as this year's Honorary Foreign Member. Nominations for this distinction in 1996 should be received by the AHA office by February 23.
All members of the division have been greatly impressed with the energy and commitment Sandria Freitag has shown as our new executive director. In many ways, especially in regard to the need to restructure Association finances and accounting with the aim, in part, of generating additional resources to support the Research Division's grant program, this has been a difficult and enormously busy year. The division greatly appreciates the new executive director's support, along with that of the entire headquarters staff. I also want to thank Werner Gundersheimer (Folger Shakespeare Library) and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (Harvard Univ.) on the division's behalf for the assistance they have given the Association by serving so effectively as division members.
William G. Rosenberg (Univ. of Michigan) is the vice president, Research Division.
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