March 10, 2008
By Debbie Ann Doyle
On March 3 and 4, 145 members of the humanities community, including college professors, museum professionals, librarians, archivists, and independent scholars, gathered in Washington, D.C. for the 2008 National Conference of the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), of which the AHA is a member. The highlight of the conference was the ninth annual Humanities Advocacy Day. Participants fanned out across to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and their staff to urge them to support federal agencies that sustain research, education, public programs, and preservation in history and other fields. Participants in the congressional visits learned to be effective advocates at Monday policy briefings. They returned from the Hill energized and a bit giddy at the chance to persuade their elected leaders of the critical national importance of scholarship and public programs in the humanities.
Attendees also attended round table sessions where they brainstormed future goals for the organization and met with over 30 representatives of federal agencies that support the humanities. Anthony Grafton of Princeton University (a former vice-president of the AHA Professional Division) gave a rousing and witty address on the future of libraries and archives in the digital age. A breakout session focused on current policy issues affecting historians and federal support for history. Another covered problems with travel and visa policy that are affecting international scholarly exchange. The conference closed with a reception at the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum at which the NHA presented its Sidney R. Yates Award for Distinguished Public Service to the Humanities to The Honorable Norman D. Dicks (D-Washington), the chairman of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, for his ongoing support for the National Endowment for the Humanities. See the upcoming April issue of Perspectives on History for a detailed report on the conference.