"History in the Public Arena: The AHA and the Smithsonian,"

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact photos@si.edu.

Narrow Your Results


Filter Your Results

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.


  • Rothberg provides an overview of the relationship between the American Historical Association and the Smithsonian Institution. The 1889 Act of Congress incorporating the American Historical Association established that the Smithsonian would publish the AHA's annual report and made the Smithsonian Secretary the final arbiter of the report's content. During the 1890s, the Smithsonian refused to publish any church history in the report, a serious problem after the American Society of Church History merged with the AHA in 1896, leading the society to break from the AHA in 1906. Political history, especially with racial or ethnic themes, also proved problematic.
  • Rothberg notes that although AHA officials such as John Franklin Jameson chafed at the censorship, they feared the loss of Smithsonian financial support and acquiesced to the wishes of Smithsonian Secretaries Samuel P. Langley and Charles D. Walcott. He concludes that the recent stresses between the Smithsonian and the historical community over the Enola Gay exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum are not the first such fractures over censorship of controversial interpretations of history between public institutions and professional historical societies.


  • Walcott, Charles D (Charles Doolittle) 1850-1927
  • Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906
  • Jameson, J. Franklin (John Franklin) 1859-1937
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • American Historical Association
  • American Society of Church History
  • American Historical Association Church History Section
  • Enola Gay (Exhibition) (1995: Washington, D.C.)


Smithsonian History Bibliography

Citation information

Public History column


Rothberg is an editor of the John Franklin Jameson Papers.

Contained within

Perspectives: American Historical Association Newsletter 36 (1) January 1998 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


  • Public history
  • Controversies
  • Learned institutions and societies

Physical description

Number of pages : 3; Page numbers : 24-26

Full Record

View Full Record