2010 Annual Meeting

The 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies took place at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel in Philadelphia, PA on May 6-8.  In attendance were members of the ACLS Board of Directors, Delegates of the constituent societies, members of the Conference of Administrative Officers, presidents of the constituent societies, representatives of Affiliate organizations, representatives of college and university Associate institutions, ACLS fellowship recipients, committee members, foundation representatives, and other invited participants.

The Board of Directors met on May 6.  (Board members in attendance are pictured at right.) For current membership, see Board and Committees.

That evening, there were two informal sessions.  James Shulman, president of ARTstor, presented Shared Shelf, ARTstor's platform for image sharing for learned societies.  Through Shared Shelf, society members have the opportunity to publish images of scholarly importance with appropriate tagging and metadata, thereby cumulatively developing a collective image database of value to the whole membership.  Andrzej W. Tymowski, director of international programs at ACLS, moderated a panel on new directions in humanities scholarship in Africa, joined by Sandra Barnes, professor of anthropology, and Steven Feierman, professor of history, both from the University of Pennsylvania.  They gave an overview of the genesis of the African Humanities Program (AHP) and the first round of applications, peer review, and first cohort of fellows.  These fellowships are awarded solely for study within Africa, as opposed to travel to the U.S. or Europe.  Barnes and Feierman emphasized AHP's unique goals of providing research opportunities for junior scholars in the humanities in Africa and of ultimately creating a self-sustained community of African humanities scholars. 

The Council met on May 7, the meeting chaired by Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the ACLS Board of Directors. The Council heard reports on ACLS finances by Nancy J. Vickers, treasurer of the ACLS Board of Directors, and Heidi Carter Pearlson, chair of the Investment Committee. Voting members (Delegates of member societies and members of the board of directors) approved the ACLS budget for FY11 and the following elections to the board:

• Anand Yang, history, University of Washington, was elected to a three-year term as vice chair.
• Charlotte Kuh, economics, National Research Council, The National Academies was re-elected to a four-year term as member.
• Nicola Courtright, art history, Amherst College, was elected to a four-year term as member.

Also by vote of the Council, the Society for Military History (SMH) was admitted as ACLS's 70th member society. The SMH represents 2,500 prominent scholars, soldiers, and citizens interested in military history. For more information, visit http://www.smh-hq.org/.

In her "Report to the Council," Pauline Yu discussed the progress of ACLS programs in the context of the financial and organizational challenges facing the academic humanities.. 

As in recent years, the Council meeting concluded with a presentation by recent ACLS fellows on "Emerging Themes and Methods of Humanities Research." This year's speakers were Edward J. Balleisen, Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars, 2009, associate professor of history, Duke University; John North Hopkins, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/ACLS Early Career Fellowship Program, 2009, doctoral candidate in art history, University of Texas at Austin; and Christa Salamandra, ACLS Fellowship Program, 2009, assistant professor of anthropology, City University of New York, Lehman College.

At the Delegates meeting earlier in the day, Nicole Stahlmann, director of ACLS fellowship programs, reported that despite the difficult financial climate, ACLS was able to increase the number of fellowships awarded in the most recent competition through the introduction of the New Faculty Fellows program.  In 2009-10, ACLS awarded $13.2 million to 251 scholars in the United State and an additional $1.4  million to scholars based outside the U.S., bringing the total of ACLS awards to more than $15.3 million.  Jessica Jones Irons, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, spoke about recent NHA lobbying activities. Sally Deutsch, chair of the Executive Committee of the Delegates, chaired the meeting. 

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Chairman Jim Leach spoke at luncheon.

This year's program session, "The Google Book Settlement: Implications for Scholarship," examined the benefits and shortfalls of the Google Books digitization program for the scholarly community. While the enormous benefits of this endeavor were widely recognized, there was also an important discussion of its shortfalls from a scholarly perspective—such as lack of metadata and poor scan quality—as well as a discussion of the implications for scholarly publication of its approach to copyright.  Daniel Clancy from Google explained to the well-attended session that to move from its current 95% quality to 99% quality would require an investment of over a billion dollars as compared with the $250 million that it had spent to date. Meanwhile the final decision on the settlment is still forthcoming.  The session also featured James Grimmelmann from New York Law School, Helen Cullyer from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and James O'Donnell, provost of Georgetown University and secretary of the ACLS Board of Directors. The session was chaired by Jonathan Culler, member of the ACLS Board of Directors and professor of comparative literature at Cornell University.

Nancy Siraisi, distinguished professor emerita of history, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York, delivered the 2010 Haskins Prize Lecture in the evening of May 7.  The Annual Meeting concluded with a buffet supper in Professor Siraisi’s honor.

The Conference of Administrative Officers held their annual spring meeting on May 8.