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Author: Scott Merriman
Title: The View from Here: The First Ten Years of the JAHC
Publication Info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
Fall 2009

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Source: The View from Here: The First Ten Years of the JAHC
Scott Merriman

vol. 12, no. 1, Fall 2009

The View from Here: The First Ten Years of the JAHC

Scott Merriman 

.01. Abstract

Scott Merriman, an active participant in the association, editorial board member, and site review editor of the journal for eight years, comments on the start of the Journal of the Association for History and Computing, and his role as editor for the journal.

.02. The Early Years of the Journal

The Journal of the Association for History and Computing (JAHC) was and is a vital component of the American Association for History and Computing's (AAHC's) program. I will probably reiterate what others will say, but I wanted to take a few words and note some of the changes that have occurred over the first decade of the journal's existence. I served as site review editor for the first eight years and continue as an editorial board member.

In the early years of the journal, the editors debated what types of articles to publish. Some pushed for more computational and numerical based information, similar to the work done in Europe by many interested in the area. Others wanted more "hands-on" articles, including a discussion of how to do history and computing, incorporating things like integrating the use of computer resources into one's pedagogy. Still others wanted a discussion of more theoretical issues. The journal has, in my opinion, integrated articles from all three of these areas, as well as serving to present the best papers from each year's annual AAHC conference. It also disseminated the Association's research and was an early sounding board on issues being discussed. (For instance, Deborah Andersen's pioneering work on the credit (or lack thereof) given to electronic scholarship by tenure committees was first published here.) I should note that there was also discussion early on of what to call the journal, including a suggestion to name the journal HACQR, which I think was to stand for the History and Computing Quarterly Review, but this was more tongue-in-cheek. There also was a debate about whether there would be confusion between the JAHC and the Association for History and Computing's journal (which had the same name and is headquartered in Europe). I think that this worry, fortunately, has come to naught.

.03. Editorial Considerations

In my work as an editorial board member, I gained a behind-the-scenes view of how the journal worked. There were sometimes difficulties in encouraging submissions, and the journal started with a core group of a few, including Jeffrey Barlow who was a driving force as founding editor. The journal has matured and moved on to being capably edited by Deborah Andersen and Michelle Harper. Like many other e-journals, JAHC experienced difficulties establishing procedures for review, and this should serve as a cautionary tale for those who think that establishing an e-journal is simple and cheap. Neither of those is the case, and just because printing expenses are minimal does not mean that a journal is inexpensive, either in time or resources, to produce. Those institutions hosting the editors and the JAHC need to be complimented for their support of the endeavor. There also are a whole host of technical issues that needed to be worked out, but I was not directly involved in them and so will let others comment.

As a site review editor, I produced a column on electronic resources. Similar to what occurred with the journal as a whole, there were difficulties in encouraging columnists. There also was a sometimes battle in encouraging others to see the value of reviews of e-resources as people often thought that Google™ was the only needed resource. However, the columns allowed JAHC to highlight the most important resources and provide more in-depth discussion of them (as well as a much more careful vetting) than a search engine provides. Jeremy Boggs has taken over as electronic resource columnist, producing thorough analyses in exactly this vein.

In closing, I would like to note that I am proud of what the journal has become and of the role that it has played in disseminating scholarship about the intersection of history and computing. The early problems with drawing article and column writers have largely dissipated. Some more academic institutions have acknowledged the worth of electronic publications, while others still debate the issue and still others unfortunately ignore electronic publications. Furthermore, the journal has drawn a broad readership of historians, librarians, and technology experts. Moving forward, I expect the journal’s role as a repository of historical knowledge to grow well during its next decade of publication.