By Taylor Perk
At any AHA annual meeting, it’s easy to spot dozens of well-dressed individuals preparing for interviews in the hopes of finding a job within the academy. In the past few years, however, with the advent of Career Diversity, the flavor of the meeting has changed a bit. At the Colorado Convention Center, only a few rooms over from the Job Center, one could find several PhD students and faculty members gathered to think beyond the professorial life.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. During a session at the 2016 annual meeting—mulling over the role historians should play in public life—Atlantic editor Yoni Appelbaum declared: “I hate op-eds.” Appelbaum argued that the format of conventional opinion journalism encouraged writers to make “very generalized claims” without demanding that they “marry their evidence to their argument.” The op-ed is a blunt tool for a delicate task.
By Michelle M. Martin
When I began my directorship of the Little House on the Prairie Museum south of Independence, Kansas, the promise and challenges the museum faced swirled in my mind. For any small historic house museum, problems tend to outweigh the possibilities. Founded in 1977, the Little House on the Prairie Museum preserves the Kansas homesite where Charles Ingalls and his family lived from 1869–71. The museum features a replica of the one-room cabin the family lived in while in Kansas along with a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse and post office moved to the site to ensure their preservation.
Midway through the first plenary of the 2017 AHA annual meeting, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz suggested that he was invited to participate for reasons that no longer applied. “This is just a guess, but I think that my presence on this panel has something to do with the fact that the organizers might have thought that not only would Donald Trump not be president-elect, but that Hillary Clinton would.” Wilentz’s ties to the Clintons are well documented—he’s been called their “house historian”—and it was widely believed that he would play a significant role in a Clinton White House.
By Evan Faulkenbury
On a cold January day, my history department colleagues at the State University of New York at Cortland—Randi Storch and Kevin Sheets—and I set out for the 2017 AHA annual meeting in Denver. We were on a specific mission: to learn as much as possible about digital history in three days. After looking over the program, we counted dozens of relevant panels that incorporated new and exciting digital history scholarship. Randi, Kevin, and I decided to immerse ourselves in these panels, learn as much as we can, and come back to our department with ideas for expanding our digital and public history offerings for students and colleagues.
Each year’s February issue of Perspectives tries to evoke memories of the most recent annual meeting—January 5–8 in Denver, in this case—through as many conference-inspired news stories, essays, and photographs as can fit into 40 pages. The annual meeting has evolved radically to incorporate innovative session formats, a broadening spectrum of research topics and methodologies, opportunities to exchange ideas about teaching, and most importantly, a far more diverse representation of our community.
By Jessica Derleth
Second to my fervent goal of not flubbing my paper presentation, I arrived at the 2017 AHA annual meeting hoping to find answers to one of my most pressing questions: how do I translate the skills I am learning in graduate school so they are legible to employers in both academic and nonacademic careers? The overarching answer to my question slowly emerged from a conglomeration of conference sessions on career diversity and pedagogy, conversations about humanities funding, panels on applying for academic jobs, and a string of tweets during the plenary that aimed to inform the new presidential administration of what they ought to consider in their first 100 days.
If you haven’t seen Stanley Fish in a while, I’ll tell you this: the man has not lost a step. He’s as puckish and provocative as ever. One of four panelists at the annual meeting’s Session 61, “Historical Expertise and Political Authority,” Fish (visiting professor of law at Cardozo Law School) carved out a spot by and for himself with his usual gusto, and I’ll spare you any suspense: historians do not have useful expertise to offer democratic politics. As individual citizens, they might; as distinguished historians, they do not.