posted by Linda Downs — Nov 19, 2013
Each fall the ACLS convenes a meeting for the chief administrative officers (CAOs) of learned societies to exchange information on new developments in our organizations and to explore possible conference sites. This year’s conference was held in Louisville, KY. My takeaways from Louisville were the unforgettable gleaming white nine-ton Carrara marble statue of Louis XVI (the city’s namesake) by Achille-Joseph-Étienne Valois (1829) commissioned in 1829 by the king’s surviving daughter Marie-Thérèse which stands in front of the Louisville City Hall; and the contemporary art museum-cum-hotel called 21C with an installation of Pierre Gonnord’s striking photos of people in rural Spain and a great menu at the restaurant called Proof (as in bourbon).
Among the new developments within the 50 associations that attended were:
- A new census that will gather vital information on all the associations in ACLS to better gauge the trends in the humanities field;
- The success of the ACLS Public Fellows program where fellows are placed in government and non-profit sector positions http://www.acls.org/research/publicfellows.aspx?id=7006;
- The positive reaction to the copublishing agreement between CAA and Taylor & Francis and the transition to online publishing (in addition to print) for The Art Bulletin and Art Journal and open access for caa.reviews in the spring http://www.collegeart.org/news/2013/11/05/caa-journals-to-be-published-by-taylor-francis/ and http://www.collegeart.org/publications/copublicationFAQs;
- The new public resource from the Society for Architectural History’s image encyclopedia of 1,200 American architectural images called ARCHIPEDIA http://sah-archipedia.org/;
- The Modern Language Association’s new social media site for members, MLA Commons http://commons.mla.org/ and plans to expand it for use by other academic associations;
- The National Humanities Alliance’s new advocacy initiative Video Resources http://www.nhalliance.org/ which presents the value of the humanities to the public;
- New digital extensions to annual conferences such as CAA’s conference app (available prior to the February 2014 conference in Chicago) that allow registrants to organize their own schedule of sessions and events; streaming conference sessions, YouTube and podcasts of sessions; and a parallel digital conference offered by the Association of College and Research Libraries http://www.ala.org/acrl/conferences;
- The Renaissance Society’s free access to Early English Books Online (EEOB) for their members www.rsa.org/news/146393/The-RSA-Announces-Early-English-Books-Online-EEBO-Database-Access-as-a-New-Member-Benefit.htm;
- The advocacy work of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies related to fair use and film clips, teach-ins in conference city high schools, an oral history program of members and forming an undergraduate research conference http://www.cmstudies.org/;
- Online courses on professional development organized by the College Forum of the National Council of the Teachers of English http://www.ncte.org/online-learning/courses;
- The need to advocate for the restoration of Title VI and IX funds for foreign language education through the State Department
The CAOs also heard presentations from the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature on how these societies dealt with the threat of union strikes at their conference hotels.
Trevor Parry-Giles of the National Communication Association presented a history of the development of impact factors and the pros and cons, inflation and gaming of current systems such as Thomson Reuters http://thomsonreuters.com/journal-citation-reports/, SCImago http://www.scimagojr.com/, Google Scholar Metrics http://scholar.google.com/citations?view_op=top_venues; and the latest metric under development, Microsoft Academic http://academic.research.microsoft.com/?SearchDomain=3&entitytype=2 . Digital factors have yet to be fully addressed such as counting downloads versus citations and tracing social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
In 1964 the ACLS supported a Commission on the Humanities whose report eventually led to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some of the recommendations from the Commission were to fund the humanities at the level of the sciences, give more national emphasis on higher education humanities, attract a more diverse faculty, and a demand for faculty to work together. Three learned societies compared then and now. It was noted that there was enormous expansion in humanities departments in the 1960s and so many teaching positions that PhD candidates left school before finishing their degrees to take teaching positions. While the humanities have not attracted a more diverse faculty and faculty positions and departments have been compressed, one very positive result is that faculty has embraced collaboration in both formal (humanities and digital humanities centers) and informal ways, and advocacy of higher education in the public sphere has assisted greater understanding of the value of a humanities education.