Historians Must Organize to Take Advantage of a Second Stimulus

Calls Grow for More Relief: "WASHINGTON – Eight months after enacting a massive economic stimulus package, the Obama administration is facing rising pressure from some congressional Democrats to move more aggressively to jump-start the moribund job market and try to spur a housing recovery."

If there is another stimulus, will history miss the boat again?

The last stimulus was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity--and we blew it. Some of us on the fringes of the profession called for a new federal writers project. We noted that history was scanner ready. We envisioned hundreds of millions (of the hundreds of billions) of stimulus dollars flowing into oral history, digitization, historic preservation, and history education. Stimulus money spent on history would not need a year to eighteen months to hit the economy--we are ready to go. Give us a sack of dollars and a stack of unfunded NEH proposals from the past five years and we will get people to work by Christmas.

Why did we get nothing? Because our professional organizations failed us. So far as I know there was no effort by the OAH, the AHA, the NCPH, or any other history organization to rally its members for a major push for a share of the stimulus. They sat on their hands while lobbyists from the other sectors of the economy elbowed their way to the trough. (I apologize if I am mischaracterizing anyone here and welcome correction.)

It looks like we might be about to get a second chance. Will we sit on the sidelines again? I invite ideas on how to mobilize the historians, genealogists (who are legion after all), preservationists, and teachers to channel some stimulus money into history. How do we do this?