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

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Summary

  • 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.

Subject

  • 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.)

Category

Smithsonian History Bibliography

Citation information

Public History column

Notes

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

Topic

  • Public history
  • Controversies
  • Learned institutions and societies

Physical description

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

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