President’s Report to the Membership 2013

As I come to the end of a pleasant summer of research and writing in London, I write to report on the success of the Anglo-American Conference on food history held in July. It was very well attended, and I heard a number of really interesting papers (including plenary lectures by Ken Alba and Steven Shapin). The IHR library and the seminars continue to function fully and well in the temporary digs in south block of the Senate House while an extensive refurbishment continues across the breezeway to the north.

IHR Refurbishment July 2013

As you may have noticed, this message (which I have in the past sent in June or July) is later than usual. The reason is that we are making some changes that will, I believe, be helpful and welcome.  I will, as in the past, write to you again at the end of the year to report on the AFIHR board meeting which will take place this year in Portland in November.

Changes to how you pay for British History Online and  the Bibliography of British and Irish History

Many of our members take advantage of our provision of discounted subscriptions to British History Online and/or to the Bibliography of British and Irish History. These are calendar year subscriptions, so it now makes sense to move the annual appeal asking members to continue their AFIHR membership to the autumn of the year. Please note that this new arrangement will require separate handling of membership donations and subscription fees for digital resources.  Those of you who depend on these databases should contact the development office ( to make payment.  

New website and changes to membership administration

Membership services are now being provided by the development staff at the IHR, which consists of two very talented and capable people, Michelle Waterman and Mira Chotaliya. Day-to-day management of the website is also now located in the IHR. One big advantage of the new configuration is that we will at last be able to handle payments via credit cards and Pay-Pal in addition to checks. For some time now, AFIHR board meetings have discussed the need to have such options available and been frustrated by their high cost for a small organization like ours. Now this problem is solved by our “piggybacking” on the IHR itself. I am very grateful to the IHR’s director, Professor Miles Taylor, for making these changes possible. You will see the result on the membership form on the redesigned AFIHR website Fortunately, our longtime webmaster Newton Key has agreed to continue to consult on any questions that may arise concerning the site. All decisions about the allocations of AFIHR funds will of course continue to be made, as required by the IRS, by the AFIHR board.

As you know, the IHR is now in the midst of a major fundraising campaign to coincide with extensive redesign that is now under way. The money will help pay both for the refurbishment and the IHR’s programs.  The changes will transform it, as Miles has said, from an institution in a library to an institution with a library. For more information on all this and much else, see recent issues of the IHR’s magazine, Past and Future. All of us who treasure the wonderful open-access resources of the library should take note, as Miles mentions in his introduction to the March issue, that these are hard times for getting public monies for libraries. Back when the IHR library was being established in the 1920s and 30s, it was “private donations, bequests, and gifts from overseas governments” that played a critical role. I suspect that “overseas governments” are no longer much involved, so support from organizations such ours are more important than ever. And our example is being followed. The Canadian Friends of the IHR have been organized in recent years and held reception at the NACBS meeting in Montreal last autumn to celebrate their launch.

I know I speak for our board members and the many scholars (especially including graduate students) who benefit from the funds we provide when I ask you to renew your tax-deductible membership in the AFIHR so we can continue to support the work of the IHR from our side of the pond. A contribution of $45 ($30 for graduate students) or more annually to the American Friends of the IHR confers membership in the Institute and facilitates. If you are able to make any additional contribution, it will be greatly appreciated.

All officers and board members of the AFIHR serve without compensation. Board members receive no compensation or travel support, so administrative costs are minimal, consisting of mailing expenses, occasional technical services, and accounting fees. Therefore nearly every dollar contributed is forwarded to the Institute in order to help pay for some aspect of its work. I will be happy to try to answer any questions or make use of any suggestions you may have.  Please use the email provided.

Sincerely yours,

Sears McGee, President, AFIHR