I am pleased to report that the National Council on Public History has now signed a formal Interim Agreement to house the editorial offices of The Public Historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) through December 2014.
What’s in the agreement?
For those of you who have followed the “breaking news” of the on-going negotiations closely, the particulars may be of interest. UCSB will hire a new Managing Editor for The Public Historian, who will begin this January. Randy Bergstrom will remain as Editor and may be joined by a co-editor from within UCSB or a public historian from outside the university. UCSB and NCPH agree that they jointly own the trademark of The Public Historian, with each party having a 50 percent ownership share of trademark. UCSB and NCPH further agree that they co-own the copyright in all past issues of The Public Historian and will co-own the copyright of the issues created through the term of the agreement. Beginning January 2013, each party will receive 50 percent of revenues from institutional subscriptions to The Public Historian. NCPH will continue to receive 100 percent of the individual membership/subscription revenue associated with The Public Historian. The current Editorial Board will continue to operate The Public Historian as in the recent past, and the NCPH president will continue to appoint new members in consultation with the Editor, Managing Editor, and any co-editors. NCPH members will continue to receive The Public Historian as a benefit of membership through the term of the agreement.
Why is the agreement necessary?
For those of you who have followed the story less avidly, here’s some brief background on why the agreement is important. Most significantly, the Interim Agreement keeps the editorial offices at UCSB, where they have been located since the journal was founded in 1978. The agreement extends and modifies the contract between NCPH and UCSB that expired in 2009 and which was the subject of continuing discussions over the three years since then. The most recent round of negotiations, in 2011, was eventually unsuccessful in producing an extension of the contract. As a result, the NCPH Board of Directors voted to terminate the relationship with UCSB, effective January 4, 2013. (For more on the history of the negotiations, with all its ups and downs, see the “Update on the Journal” posting from last May.) The idea of an Interim Agreement was broached in a face-to-face meeting at the NCPH-OAH meeting in Milwaukee, and the formal document now unites NCPH and UCSB for an additional twenty-four months, from January 4, 2013, to December 31, 2014.
What happens next?
We will be exploring various options for the future of the journal: (a) continuing the partnership between NCPH and UCSB beyond 2014, (b) adding additional institutions to the partnership during the interim as well as beyond, or (c) going separate ways in a prepared and amicable transition. The negotiations helped both parties identify issues on which there are differences of opinion and, mindful of these potential obstacles down the road, both have pledged their reasonable best efforts to move forward. The cordial and constructive working relationship that characterized the discussions that produced the Interim Agreement bodes well in this regard.
NCPH has formed a task force charged with envisioning a journal for the 21st century. It will work with the current Editorial Board—and all public historians, both NCPH members and non-members—to imagine what a public history journal should look like as the field becomes increasingly global and digital. An important component in planning for the future will be the information collected through this summer’s “Public History Readers Survey,” by which NCPH is trying to better understand how public history publications and media are used today. The survey has gathered information on how public historians stay informed about the field, opinions about the present state of the journal, and how public historians imagine the future of both the field and the journal.
Drafting the Interim Agreement and developing and distributing the Readers Survey have been our journal-related priorities this summer. The agreement is now formalized, and the survey has concluded. We are ready to turn to a proposal that had various incarnations during the negotiations in 2011 and which has been kept alive in the Interim Agreement: the prospect of bringing on board one or more co-editors as part of the journal’s editorial leadership. NCPH and UCSB will want to think systematically and in partnership about this idea. What could such an arrangement contribute in terms of intellectual or material resources? What are the practical and logistical challenges of such a collaboration? Could it be implemented as early as 2013? To get a sense of the possibilities out there, NCPH and UCSB have prepared a formal Request for Proposals that seeks to identify academic or public history institutions interested in providing a co-editor and institutional support for The Public Historian. The RFP can be found here.
~ Robert Weyeneth is the President of the National Council on Public History’s Board of Directors and Professor of History/Director of the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina. He can be reached at email@example.com. This article is also published in the Fall 2012 NCPH newsletter.