MAA News – Centennial Update

As President Franklin reported in an e-mail message to you in June she has appointed, at the direction of the Council, a Centennial Committee with the goal of looking forward to the celebration of 100 years of the Academy in 2025 and beyond, into the next century of service for medievalists. My seven fellow committee members and I are to serve as a long-range planning committee. We are to think about the role of the organization in North American medieval studies, to lay out the best ways to aid members in the their work and to promote the study of the Middle Ages. Even though the first in-person meeting of the Committee will not take place until the 2017 annual meeting in Toronto, work is already well under way. Through electronic communication and a virtual meeting we have shaped a strategy for preparing recommendations to the Council, to be delivered to the Academy early in 2019. The three-year life span of the Committee is to allow for sober deliberation and, even more, to allow for extensive consultation with the membership.

The Committee has isolated areas of Academy activity to examine including, but not exclusively, the following topics: publications; the form of delivering those publications; the role of digital initiatives; identification of areas and specific programs that would benefit from Academy support, financial and otherwise; relationships with other learned societies in North America and beyond; the role and character of Academy meetings; the place of the organization in the public sphere; the effective operation of the Academy office; relations with universities and schools both primary and secondary; the pressures on early-career scholars; and the role of the Fellows within the Academy and beyond. The long list has already expanded during deliberations and discussions. It certainly could grow even more as the Committee explores the possibilities open and opening up for the Academy.

The Committee will also look at a renewed and ambitious understanding of the intellectual and institutional role for the organization. One central question is the degree to which the Academy should take a more active, even aggressive role in promoting the study of the Middle Ages at all levels in North America and how that might be done without diminishing the valuable service which it now provides. A second critical question is what will constitute medieval studies in the coming century, what will be the limits geographical, chronological and disciplinary. The scope of medieval studies has expanded dramatically since that meeting in 1925 at the Harvard Faculty Club which created the Academy as has the number of people interested in the period in its many facets. How the Academy should address that population and maintain and expand the membership are issues very much in the minds of Committee members.

Any report on the long-term trajectory of the Medieval Academy must rely heavily on the knowledge, experience and expectations of the members. We will consult as broadly as possible and invite anyone with thoughts about the future of the organization or on medieval studies in general and those with suggestions about other topics or issues that deserve our attention to please share those ideas with us at the Committee’s devoted e-mail address: Members of the Committee will be contacting people who have been involved with work for the Academy in various roles, asking about their experience and suggestions for change. Anyone who has recently sat on an Academy committee or who has served as an officer is in danger of being approached; and although long experience is valued, we are equally interested in hearing from people who have recently joined. An organization devoted to interdisciplinarity even before the term was invented needs to retain that central attribute and the Committee would like to hear how that might be done. We are as interested in hearing constructive criticism as we are in knowing what you think works well. The website, a relatively new innovation for an institution approaching its one-hundredth birthday, is still evolving, and the Committee will find opinions about its effectiveness extremely useful. Please do not wait to send along your comments on this and other matters. There will also be a chance to express views more generally early in the new year, when we ask all members to respond to an electronic survey.

The Medieval Academy of America has been a valuable asset to the field, changing its character over the decades since its founding. The Centennial Committee anticipates finding ways for that to continue.   Success in creating a long-term plan will depend very much on information and assistance from fellow medievalists. All of us very much look forward to our contact with members and to producing a road map for the future of the Academy.

Richard W. Unger, Chair, Centennial Committee

On behalf of the Committee:

Patrick Geary (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)
Anne Lester, CARA Chair (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder)
Eugene Lyman, MAA Treasurer
Elizabeth Morrison (The Getty Museum)
Kathryn Reyerson (Univ. of Minnesota)
Barbara Shailor (Yale Univ.)
Nicholas Watson (Harvard Univ.)

Jerry Singerman (Liason with the Council, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press)
Lisa Fagin Davis (Ex-officio, Medieval Academy of America)

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