In September 2006, AHA Today launched with a simple goal: to report on the latest happenings in the discipline of history that are too time-sensitive to wait a month or more for publication in Perspectives on History, the AHA’s print newsmagazine.
As I walk to work in the morning, the first thing I see as I head toward the AHA office is the US Capitol, which not only symbolizes a public sector gone awry but also shares the honor of host for the current orgy of disregard for the common good. This observation isn’t partisan, at least not in the current moment: both Republican and Democratic policy makers from previous administrations have noted that “Washington” is not operating as it should. Nor, even, as it usually has.
A few weeks ago, AHA Today interviewed Celeste Sharpe, a graduate from George Mason University, who’s produced, what is probably, the first born-digital dissertation in the discipline of history. When asked about her future publication plans, Sharpe responded: “While the dissertation-as-proto monograph pipeline is well established, there isn’t something similar for digital projects.” In fact, creators of digital projects often face significant barriers to publishing in traditional scholarly outlets. Many digital projects don’t work as journal articles or books. Interactive and multimedia elements do not translate well to the printed page, and projects that have nonlinear narrative structures or modes of argumentation often don’t fit the expectations of the discipline.
The September issue of Perspectives will soon arrive in AHA members’ mailboxes. This is a very big deal for Perspectives, as it’s not every day that it gets a head-to-toe makeover. It’s eager to show off its new redesign to historians the world over.
Looking back over the past academic year, the aspirations and concerns of AHA members about undergraduate history education have been reflected in the pages of Perspectives on History. Our Teaching Division’s initiative on enrollments, led by Vice President Elizabeth Lehfeldt, produced articles spawning productive discussion on our Member Forum, within departments, and elsewhere online. Enrollments relate closely to the varied fortunes of the history major, also explored in Perspectives. The Association is running an ongoing survey of history majors about their career paths, with an eye on producing exemplary qualitative and quantitative data.
With Eliot’s “cruelest month” upon us, Perspectives considers the role ruins and the destruction of cultural heritage play in history. The subject might evoke the Taliban’s demolition of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001 or, more recently, the terrorist group Daesh (ISIS), its role in the illegal antiquities trade, and its devastation of heritage sites in Palmyra. But as Rachel Van Bokkem shows in “History in Ruins,” the destruction of cultural heritage is far from a new phenomenon, nor is it limited to one part of the world or a few groups of people.
Most issues of Perspectives include at least one feature related to teaching and learning. The best of the genre, we think, honestly evaluate student learning outcomes, engage contemporary pedagogical thinking, and offer innovative tools for instruction—that one twist in an assignment that makes all the difference, say.
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.