Monthly Archives: February 2012

Grant of the Week: Leadership in History Awards from the AASLH

The American Association for State and Local History offers Leadership in History Awards to encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful to all Americans. By publicly recognizing superior and innovative achievements, the Leadership in History Awards serve as an inspiration to others in the field. The Leadership in History Awards include the Award of Merit, given to recognize excellence for projects (including civic engagement, special projects, educational programs, exhibits, publications, restoration projects, etc.), individual achievement, and organizational general excellence; and the Award of Distinction, given in recognition of long and very distinguished individual service. The deadline for nominations is March 1. Learn more here.

What We’re Reading: February 16, 2012

Inside Higher Ed Tuning HistoryIn the news, Inside Higher Ed covers the AHA’s new “Tuning” history project, and Gettysburg College reports on the co-winners of the 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. Also find links to tracking history PhDs, careers for historians outside of academia, and how historians are using social media. Finally, read about a student’s discovery of a forgotten Malcolm X speech and a video on George Washington’s frustration with portrait painters.

  • “Tuning” History
    Inside Higher Ed explores the AHA’s new “Tuning” history project, supported by a grant from Lumina Foundation, to articulate the core of historical study and to identify what a student should know and be able to do at the completion of a history degree program.
  • 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize
    Gettysburg College reports that AHA member Elizabeth D. Leonard has won the 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize for her book, Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky (Univ. of North Carolina Press). William C. Harris is a co-winner of the prize for Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union (Univ. Press of Kansas).


  • Historians Face New Pressures to Track Ph.D.’s
    The Chronicle’s article “Historians Face New Pressures to Track Ph.D.’s” includes some fascinating data on placements of 2010 history PhDs from top-rated programs. By our math, their chart shows 40% of the PhD recipients are now in tenure-track posts, 23% are adjuncts, 14% are in postdoc positions, 4% are in other sorts of academic but non-teaching jobs, 6% are in nonacademic positions, and 13% are unemployed.
  • What’s Been Lost in History
    In this opinion piece, Thomas Bender, professor of history and university professor of the humanities at New York University, considers careers paths for historians outside of academia.
  • Academic Networking 2.0: Historians and Social Media
    Michael D. Hattem, a PhD candidate at Yale, explains how “historians are utilizing social media for both professional networking and scholarly development.”
  • The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth on Wikipedia
    Timothy Messer-Kruse, professor in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University, details his experiences editing a Wikipedia entry on the Haymarket riot and trial of 1886. Messer-Kruse has published articles and books on the subject, but ran into issues with Wikipedia’s "undue weight" policy when trying to share his expertise.


Contributors: Elisabeth Grant, Vernon Horn, and Robert B. Townsend

The History of Vaccines

The History of Vaccines websiteThe History of Vaccines website is a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia that has been recognized by both the 2011 Best of the Web awards and the Webby Awards.

The site offers well-researched articles on the history of disease and vaccines, a gallery of historic documents and images collected from museums and other institutions, timelines to help visitors understand diseases and vaccines through history, and activities that use interaction to promote learning.

Travel from 900 CE, when Persian physician Rhazes produced the first published comparison of measles and smallpox, all the way to the 2010 cholera epidemic in Haiti, through the Timelines section of the History of Vaccines website. There are four timelines in all, broken up into all topics, diseases and vaccines, pioneers, and science and society.

Each entry on the timeline is accompanied by a related image or document scan. For example, the timeline entry for 5/14/1796, when “Edward Jenner tested the hypothesis that infection with cowpox could protect a person from smallpox infection,” is paired with an image from the National Library of Medicine. For the timeline entry for 1900, when U.S. army researchers discovered the cause of yellow fever, there’s an image of a Robert Thom painting depicting “yellow fever commission members in Cuba.”

The History of Vaccines timeline

The website also features some fascinating and well-cited articles. Near the bottom of each article click the “See This Item in the Timeline” button to get a perspective of where this event falls in history. The “History and Science” collection in the article section features a dozen pieces on vaccines throughout history, looking at culture, military involvement, pandemics, and more. Here are just a few:

  • History of Anti-Vaccination Movements
    While anti-vaccine groups have been in the news in recent years (for example, the contingent of parents who fear vaccines can contribute to the development of autism), anti-vaccination movements are not a recent occurrence. This article details how “opposition to vaccination has existed as long as vaccination itself.” Learn about these movements beginning with the 1721 Boston smallpox epidemic.
  • Influenza Pandemics
    In 2009, after the swine flu pandemic, we rounded up resources on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic here on AHA Today. Learn more about Spanish influenza in 1918, as well as about Asian influenza in the 1950s, Hong Kong flu in the 1960s, and more recent flu outbreaks in this article on the History of Vaccines website.
  • U.S. Military and Vaccine History
    Throughout history, the U.S. military has been hit with infectious disease outbreaks in the troops and led efforts to find treatments and develop vaccines. There have also been darker moments in this history, including using smallpox as a weapon against Native Americans. The History of Vaccines website touches on all these points in this article.

The Activities section of the website offers interactive ways to learn more about “the past, present, and future of vaccination and infectious disease.” For instance, the History of the Immunization Schedule has users click through a timeline from 1945 through 2005 to learn how and why the list of recommended vaccines has evolved over the years.

While the immunization schedule is notably less interactive than some of the other activities, like Illsville, a game on the site where you “fight a disease,” it is a brief and informative overview of population health over time.

History of Vaccines galleryA collection of images, documents, paintings, and videos in the Gallery section of the site can be searched by disease and vaccination name, pioneers, science and society, media type, and date range. A number of individuals, museums, presidential libraries, and other institutions contributed holdings from their collections to be included in the Gallery.

Want more on the history of vaccines? Follow the website’s blog, check out its resources for parents, and find activities and lesson plans for use in the classroom.

Valentine’s Day for History Lovers

Happy Valentine’s Day! Dear readers, please accept our Valentine’s gift to you: a collection of Valentine’s Day and history-related links.

2011 National Humanities Medals Winners Include AHA Members

2011 National Humanities MedalistsThis past Friday the National Endowment for the Humanities announced the winners of the 2011 National Humanities Medals, which recognize outstanding achievements in history, literature, education, philosophy, and musicology.

Among the nine recipients this year are two distinguished AHA members—former president Robert Darnton and former vice president Teofilo Ruiz—alongside National History Day, the annual program that involves over half a million U.S. children in the study of history.

A video of the White House presentation of these medals is available here. The official citations for Robert Darnton, Teofilo Ruiz, and National History Day are listed below. Learn about all nine winners here online.

The citations briefly note the work and some of the accomplishments of the three history winners:

  • Robert Darnton, historian and librarian, for his determination to make knowledge accessible to everyone. As an author he has illuminated the world of Enlightenment and Revolutionary France, and as a librarian he has endeavored to make his vision for a comprehensive national library of digitized books a reality.
  • Teofilo Ruiz, medieval historian, for his inspired teaching and writing. His erudite studies have deepened our understanding of medieval Spain and Europe, while his late examination of how society has coped with terror has taught important lessons about the dark side of western progress.
  • National History Day, a program that inspires in American students a passion for history. Each year more than half a million children from across the country compete in this event, conducting research and producing websites, papers, performances, and documentaries to tell the human story.

History Faculty Begin Nationwide Tuning Project

What Should History Degree-Holders Understand and Be Able to Do?

Washington, D.C.– The American Historical Association (AHA) is initiating a nationwide, faculty-led project to articulate the core of historical study and to identify what a student should understand and be able to do at the completion of a history degree program. Professors Anne Hyde (Colorado College) and Patricia Limerick (University of Colorado Boulder) will lead accomplished faculty from more than sixty colleges and universities across the country to frame common goals and reference points for post-secondary history education.  The project will engage employers, alumni, students, and others in exploring and enhancing how the study of history provides the foundation for a life of active citizenship, continued learning, and successful employment.

This “Tuning” project, supported by a grant from Lumina Foundation (Indianapolis, IN), will test the possibility of harmonizing the nation’s diverse degree programs in a single discipline.  Initiated in Europe a decade ago and extended since then to higher education settings in six continents, Tuning has been adapted to the structure of American higher education only in more localized settings.  Drawing in part on those pilot initiatives, AHA Tuning project members will convene in June 2012 and February 2013 to draft and refine commentaries on the skills, methods, and substantive range they believe characterize the study of history. Faculty participants will then build on this collaborative work inside their own classrooms and departments by aligning specific curriculum elements to the common competencies requisite for history degree-holders.  Participants will scale these learning goals to introductory, upper-level, and capstone courses, as well as to three degree levels (Associate’s, Bachelor’s, or Master’s).  The AHA Tuning project will provide history faculty with a hands-on, collegial process to begin defining the terms of assessment that can best measure and demonstrate what and how their students learn.

The AHA’s initiative to “tune the history major” encompasses three broad objectives:

  1. To articulate the core abilities, habits of mind, and knowledge required of their discipline;
  2. To develop a clear, common language to express the distinctive value of history for students, employers, and public culture.  Students who can see clearly what they are learning, and why, are better equipped to direct their studies towards lifelong learning, meaningful employment, and civic participation;
  3. To provide a nationwide framework in which historians can design the systems used by their institutions to measure their achievements as teachers.

“This project is part of the AHA’s emphasis on facilitating communication among historians and between historians and the general public,” says Executive Director James Grossman.  “Our members will generate curricular frameworks that combine common themes and practices with the flexibility appropriate for institutions with different missions and circumstances.”


Contact:  Julia Brookins, AHA Special Projects Coordinator (

Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based private foundation, is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college—especially 21st century students: low-income students, students of color, first-generation students and adult learners. Lumina’s goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina pursues this goal in three ways: by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using our communications and convening power to build public will for change.

The American Historical Association serves historians representing every historical period and geographical area.  Its approximately 14,000 members include historians in colleges, universities, schools, museums, historical organizations, libraries, archives, business, and government, along with independent scholars and nonprofessionals with an abiding interest in history.  The AHA provides leadership for the profession, protects academic freedom, develops professional standards, aids in the pursuit and publication of scholarship, and supplies services to sustain and enhance the work of its members.