OAH Home Donate to OAH Join the OAH

Programs & Resources

News in American History

News of the Profession

“News of the Profession” includes announcements of special interest to American historians and practitioners at all levels. Please submit your announcement using this form.

The National Coalition for History Provides Comment on Proposed Legislation Creating Women's History Museum

On May 7, 2014 the US House of Representatives voted in favor of House Resolution 863 to create a "Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Women's History Museum." The resolution, introduced by representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), passed in the House by a vote of 383-33. The Senate is now considering the companion bill, S. 398, sponsored by Susan Collins (R-ME), to create a commission to study the creation of a proposed women's history museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The legislation is under the jurisdiction of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee which has not yet scheduled a markup of the bill.

The National Coalition for History (NCH) and its member organizations, which includes the Organization of American Historians, is concerned that the proposed eight-member bipartisan commission does not include any professional historians, and through its partnership with the  the OAH supports the amendments, outlined in the letter below, to strengthen the proposed legislation.

The NCH is also concerned that the legislation calls for considering a role for the National Women's History Museum (NWHM), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, in raising funds for the construction of the museum. Naming a specific nonprofit organization in the authorizing legislation inappropriately implies endorsement of the NWHM. (The NWHM has been mired in recent controversies, from the quality of its scholarship, to its ability to raise the needed funds.) In fact, the NWHM to date has only raised $14 million of the estimated $400 million it would cost to design and build the museum.

Finally the NCH suggests amending the proposed legislation to include a public comment component. 

The National Coalition for History has sent the following letter to Senator Collins and to the cosponsors of S. 398.

National Coalition for History 
400 A Street SE
Washington DC 20003
tel. 202 544-2422 ext. 116

May 16, 2014

The Honorable Susan Collins
United States Senate
413 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Dear Senator Collins:

The National Coalition for History (NCH) would like to comment on S. 398, the "Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Women's History Museum Act of 2013." NCH is a consortium of over 50 organizations that advocates on federal legislative and regulatory issues. The coalition is made up of a diverse number of groups representing historians, archivists, researchers, teachers, students, documentary editors, preservationists, political scientists, museum professionals and other stakeholders.

NCH strongly supports the bill's intent of creating a commission to study the issue, as well as the ultimate goal of building a National Women's History Museum. Nevertheless, we have concerns with the bill in its current form, and would like to offer some constructive amendments to strengthen the legislation.

NCH is very concerned that the bill, as written, does not stipulate that any professional historians be appointed to the eight-member bipartisan commission. Any project to create a new national history museum should involve professional historians with expertise in women's history from the outset. Interpreting the past is vital to democratic debate and civic life, and scholars experienced in investigating and interpreting the past should be part of that process.

NCH is also concerned with Section 4(b)(2)(A) of the bill, which calls for considering a role for the National Women's History Museum (501)(c)(3) (NWHM) organization in raising funds for the construction of the Museum. It is unusual for the authorizing legislation for a museum commission to include the name of a specific non-profit in the section dealing with developing the fundraising plan. This was not the case with laws authorizing other new museums on the National Mall, including the National Museum of the American Latino, on which S. 398 is based. To include the NWHM in the language of the bill may be misinterpreted to suggest an endorsement that we feel is inappropriate. The NWHM has been mired in controversies regarding many aspects of its activities, from the quality of its scholarship to its ability to raise funds.  While we recognize the hard work the organization has done to bring the project this far, NCH recommends a fresh start if this important endeavor is to proceed towards a successful outcome.

Finally, we are concerned that there is no clear provision in the legislation to require the commission to seek, or provide the opportunity for, public comment. While seeking public input may be implied, it is too important to leave to chance. The commission's report can only be enhanced by involvement from the broad spectrum of citizens with an interest in the Museum.

To summarize, the National Coalition for History recommends three amendments which we feel will improve the bill:

  1. Section 3(c)(1)(B) describing the qualifications of commission members should be amended to include the language, "professional historians with expertise in women's history."
  2. Section 4 (b)(2)(A) of the bill, which calls for considering a role for the National Women's History Museum organization regarding fundraising, should be deleted.
  3. Include a mandate that the commission seek public input as part of its deliberations.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments. The National Coalition for History and our member organizations stand ready to assist the commission to ensure that we achieve the ultimate goal of creating a world-class National Women's History Museum.

If you have any questions, please contact Lee White, the Executive Director of the NCH at 202-544-2422, x-116 or lwhite@historycoalition.org.


John Dichtl, NCH Policy Board President
Lee White, NCH Executive Director

Posted: May 20, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession

OAH Executive Board Endorses Revisions to Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Employment Standards

At its 2011 spring meeting on March 17-20, the OAH Executive Board endorsed standards and "best practices" developed by the OAH Committee on Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Employment (CPACE) prescribing how colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education should employ and utilize non-tenured and non-tenure-track history faculty.

At its spring meeting in 2014, the OAH Executive Board endorsed the CPACE's revisions to the standards which are designed to more clearly distinguish teaching from nonteaching contingent historians, andindicate "best practices" that apply specifically to nonteaching contingent historians. Read more >

Posted: May 7, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession

OAH Members Awarded Prestigious Bancroft Prize in History

Please join us in congratulating Ira Katznelson, Columbia University, and Ari Kelman, University of California, Davis. Professor Katznelson is being recognized for his book, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (Liveright Publishing Corporation / W.W. Norton & Company, 2013), and Professor Kelman for his book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013).  Read more about the 2014 Bancroft winners >

Read more >

Posted: March 14, 2014
Tagged: Clio's Kudos, News of the Profession

"U.S. History Textbooks Today and Tomorrow" is Our Editor's Choice Selection for March 2014

Editors ChoiceDebates over what belongs in U.S. history textbooks have long reflected conflicts over whose stories belong at the center of the national narrative. Especially for K–12 textbooks, those conflicts have mirrored concerns about the cultural and political cultivation of young citizens. The Journal of American History recently convened a "virtual" panel of textbook authors, college teachers, and a publisher to discuss the present and future of U.S. history college textbooks. Read the current installment of "Textbooks and Teaching," which is our "Editor's Choice" selection for March 2014.  

Read more >

Posted: March 14, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession

OAH Members Receive 2013-2014 ACLS Fellowships

March 13, 2014. The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) announced that OAH members Jacob S. Dorman (University of Kansas), and Margaret O'Mara (University of Washington), were awarded fellowships for 2013-2014.  Read more about these two new ACLS fellows >

Read more >

Posted: March 14, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession, Clio's Kudos

Open Discourse and Academic Freedom

From the OAH President. In his February 2014 column in OAH Outlook, OAH President Alan M. Kraut stresses the importance of open scholarly discourse when historians debate the issues surrounding important subjects. Read more >

Read more >

Posted: February 18, 2014
Tagged: Advocacy, News of the Organization, News of the Profession

UC San Diego Digitizes Materials on Birth of Nuclear Age

The papers of physicist and inventor Leo Szilard chronicling the birth of the nuclear age and the work of the Manhattan Project will soon be digitized by the UC San Diego Library. Szilard played an essential role in the development of the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project, yet he was also a passionate advocate for global arms control and argued for using the bomb as a deterrent—not as a force for destruction. The Library will digitize Szilard's materials, which extend from 1938 to 1998, thanks to a $93,000 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Principal Investigator for the digitization project, which is expected to take approximately two years to complete, is Brian E. C. Schottlaender, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian at UC San Diego. The project will be administered by Lynda Claassen, director of the Library's Mandeville Special Collections, which houses the Szilard papers.

Project details and updates will be posted on the Mandeville Special Collections blog: http://ucsdspecialcollections.tumblr.com/search/szilard

Posted: February 17, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession

House Passes Major Presidential Records Reform

National Coalition for HistoryFebruary 1, 2014. Inscribed at the entrance to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library is this declaration by Truman: "The papers of the Presidents are among the most valuable sources of material for history. They ought to be preserved and they ought to be used." Since those words were spoken many years ago, experience has taught historians that President Truman should have added "and the government should make them accessible to the public as soon as possible."

For more than a decade, the National Coalition for History has been a lead advocate for Presidential Records Act (PRA) reform. The Organization of American Historians joined along with the American Historical Association as plaintiff, along with other historical and archival groups, in a federal lawsuit that sought to invalidate Executive Order (EO) 13233, issued by President George W. Bush, which severely limited public access to presidential records.

On January 21, 2009, in one of his first official acts, President Barack Obama replaced Bush's executive order with his own, EO 13489. Obama's EO is similar to one issued by President Reagan in 1989, which was also in effect during the presidencies of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, but was superseded by President Bush's EO 13233 in November 2001.

After the Watergate-era battles over President Nixon's papers, which pitted the judicial and legislative branches against the president, it became obvious that a law was needed to prevent similar constitutional conflicts. In 1978, Congress passed the Presidential Records Act (PRA), in an attempt to clarify legal issues surrounding presidential records preservation and maintenance.

The PRA governs the official records of presidents and vice presidents created after January 20, 1981. The PRA changed the legal ownership of the official records of a president from private to public, and established a new statutory structure under which presidents must manage their records. The PRA also defined what qualified as a presidential record, detailed guidelines for the management and custody of presidential records, established procedures for restricting access to presidential records under certain circumstances, and granted the archivist of the United States the authority to promulgate regulations enforcing the PRA.

What has proved to be the most vexing part of the PRA for historians, archivists, political scientists, journalists, and authors is the process established by the statute for restricting access to these records. Specifically, the PRA allows for public access to presidential records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) beginning five years after the end of the administration, but allows the president to invoke as many as six specific restrictions to public access for up to 12 years. The PRA also establishes procedures for Congress, courts, and subsequent administrations to obtain special access to records that remain closed to the public, following a thirty day notice period to the president involved.

The PRA did not, however, provide a procedure allowing former presidents to request continued restricted access to presidential records created during their respective administrations beyond 12 years. This flaw in the statute in effect leaves it up to each sitting president to interpret the law and impose restrictions as he or she sees fit through the issuance of executive orders. As noted above, several presidents since the passage of the PRA have issued EOs to change the request procedure and define the limits of such requests. This includes abuses such as George W. Bush's attempt to broaden the authority of those able to make a privilege claim and potentially restrict public access indefinitely beyond the 12-year period in the law. The Bush EO for the first time gave the heirs or a representative of a former president authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely.

President Obama's EO revoked the onerous restrictions placed by Bush 43 and restored the standards established by President Reagan. However, without the passage of legislation, there is nothing to prevent a future chief executive from reinstituting burdensome restrictions on access or extending the privilege beyond that of the incumbent and former president, as President Bush did.

To address this issue, the House of Representatives has passed, on a vote of 420–0, the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendment of 2014 (HR1233), creating a framework that would enable former presidents to request continued restricted access only on a very narrow basis, in essence codifying the Reagan and Obama administration rules.

The bill, passed on January 14, imposes a time limit within which a former president may assert a claim of privilege. It also establishes processes for managing the disclosure of records upon the assertion of privilege by a former president, and grants to the incumbent president the power to decide whether or not to uphold any privilege claim of a former president, absent a court order to the contrary.

The bill also requires federal employees who create or send a federal or presidential record from a nonofficial electronic messaging account to forward a complete copy of the record to an official electronic messaging account within five days. In cases of intentional violation of this disclosure requirement, the section authorizes disciplinary action as determined by the appropriate supervisor.

While the House vote is good news, two similar bills were overwhelmingly passed in the 110th and 111th Congresses only to die in the Senate. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGA) cleared PRA reform bills in the past, only to have holds placed on them by various Republican senators, most notably Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), that prevented consideration on the Senate floor.

Thus far this session, a Senate version has not yet been introduced. NCH has reached out to several senators, urging them to introduce a companion bill and bring it before the HSGA for consideration. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen, even if such a bill is introduced and marked up in committee, whether Senator Sessions will once again single-handedly stymie this much-needed reform.

Lee White is the executive director of the National Coalition for History. Sign up to receive the National Coalition for History (NCH) Washington Update,  a weekly electronic newsletter that provides information on legislation, hearings, markups, and regulatory issues of concern to historians, archivists, and other stakeholders. 

Posted: February 10, 2014
Tagged: Advocacy, News of the Profession

Support for History in the Fiscal Year 2014 Funding Bill

National Coalition for HistoryFebruary 1, 2014. 
President Barack Obama has signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (Public Law 113–76), which will fund the federal government through the rest of fiscal year (FY) 2014. The table below, prepared by the National Coalition for History, provides the budgets of all major federal agency programs affecting history, archives, and education.


FY 2013

President’s Request

FY 2014

Difference 2013 to 2014

Institute of Museum and Library Services

$ 219.8

$ 225.8

$ 226.8


Library Programs





Museum Programs





International Education and Foreign Language Studies





Title VI-A&B (Domestic Programs)





Fulbright-Hays (Overseas Programs)





Library of Congress





National Archives & Records Administration





National Historical Publications & Records Commission





National Endowment for the Humanities 





National Park Service





Historic Preservation Programs





National Recreation and Preservation*





Smithsonian Institution





Salaries & Expenses





Facilities Capital





Wilson Center for International Scholars





Prepared by the National Coalition for History. Amounts are in millions of dollars. FY 2013 amounts reflect 5% mandatory sequester cuts. *Includes $18.3M in FY 2014 for Heritage Partnership Programs.

Lee White is the executive director of the National Coalition for History. Sign up to receive the National Coalition for History (NCH) Washington Update,  a weekly electronic newsletter that provides information on legislation, hearings, markups, and regulatory issues of concern to historians, archivists, and other stakeholders. 

Posted: February 10, 2014
Tagged: Advocacy, News of the Profession

University of Georgia Press announces New Editor

The University of Georgia Press announces James C. Giesen, Mississippi State University (MSU), as the new series editor for Environmental History and the American South (EHAS). Giesen will be replacing Paul S. Sutter, University of Colorado, Boulder, effective February 1, 2014. Read more >

Posted: January 30, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession

Solicitation of Interest for the Editorship of The New England Quarterly

The New England Quarterly Inc., the administrative governing board of The New England Quarterly (NEQ), invites inquiries from individuals interested in editing, and colleges, universities, or cultural organizations interested in hosting the journal as of 1 July 2015. The directors of NEQ Inc. will consider any viable arrangement that advances the mission of the journal to publish the best that is being written about New England literature, history, and culture and their relation to the United States and the world. Interested individuals should address their preliminary inquiries to the NEQ Transition Team, c/o Sarah Hudson, The New England Quarterly, 249 Meserve Hall, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, or at neq@neu.edu, no later than February 1, 2014. For more information, visit NEQ's Web site.

Posted: December 9, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession

Release of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977—1980, Volume II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs

The Department of State released Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977—1980, Volume II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.This volume is part of a Foreign Relations subseries that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administration of Jimmy Carter. It illustrates the Carter administration’s efforts to define and implement a broad-based human rights policy, including the establishment of the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs within the Department of State, the creation of human rights coordinating and review groups, issuance of a Presidential Directive on human rights, institutionalization and standardization of human rights reporting, and pursuit of human rights within the United Nations and other multilateral venues. The volume also documents steps undertaken by the Carter administration to fight hunger, launch a global health initiative, and advocate for women’s rights. This volume was compiled and edited by Kristin L. Ahlberg.

More information is available at: http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1977-80v02

Posted: September 3, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession

Oppose Cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities

August 12, 2013. Shortly before departing Washington for its summer recess the US House of Representatives took action that constitutes a crisis for American historians and all of our colleagues in the humanities. The House completely eliminated funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Read more >

Posted: August 29, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession, Advocacy

Advocacy Alert: Oppose Funding Cuts to the NEH

July 24, 2013. The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee released its FY 2014 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill that includes a 49 percent—or $71 million—cut in funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The Organization of American Historians urges you to contact your representative TODAY and have them oppose these reductions in NEH's funding. If enacted, this funding level would devastate an agency that has already been reduced by nearly 20 percent since 2010.

The proposed cuts would end vital NEH programs that provide critical support for humanities teaching, preservation, public programming, and research, and would have a devastating impact on nearly every community in the country.

The current Appropriations Bill also proposes a 19 percent reduction — or $155 million — for the Smithsonian Institution, and will completely eliminate funding for the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

Please contact your Representative today and urge them to vote against these funding cuts. We have made it easy to send a letter to your Representative. Simply follow this link to have your voice heard or call your member of Congress by dialing the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Thank you for taking action on this important matter!

Posted: July 24, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession, Advocacy