The past year feels like a game changer. The Black Lives Matter protests and COVID-19 have transformed our daily lives, and everything feels different. One colleague suggested that it's as if the pandemic of 1918, the economic crash of 1929, and the social unrest of 1968 had all occurred within the space of a few months. The disruption of routine has even altered our relationship to time, shrinking the week from seven days to three: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. What does it mean to assume the JSAH editorship at such a complicated moment? How will these events affect the journal, and what impacts will they have on our responsibilities as writers, readers, and scholars? To explore some possible answers, in September 2020 Keith Eggener and I convened a meeting of the JSAH Editorial Advisory Committee, a group of experts from across the discipline who help the JSAH editorial staff to think broadly about best practices and advancing the work of the journal.
Our conversation ranged across many issues, touching upon emerging areas of scholarly interest, different possible writing formats, and ideas for roundtables and special workshops, especially in light of the eightieth anniversary of JSAH in 2021. One concern of particular interest was JSAH's long-standing effort to find ways to support scholars who are underrepresented in the discipline. Sussan Babaie, referring to the Getty Foundation's Connecting Art Histories program, which “seeks to bring into conversation meaningful voices that have not always been heard for economic or political reasons,” suggested we might think about how we could adopt this model to help promote scholars outside our standard catchment.1 As she noted, some scholars may confront major obstacles in areas such as language mastery and the development of suitable methodological frameworks for their research. SAH has already introduced important initiatives along these lines, including the addition of a growing array of affiliate groups that encourage members to pursue common interests and that seek to raise awareness of particular subjects among our larger membership. One proposed SAH affiliate group would focus on peer writing; such a group could offer important support for emerging scholars by providing a forum for dialogue that can help them move toward publication.
The committee members also discussed SAH CONNECTS, an exciting new digital forum for year-round virtual programming that publicizes new kinds of work and reaches a broad audience. For example, in July 2020 many of us viewed “Celebrating the Book: Race and Modern Architecture,” a Zoom discussion hosted by Patricia Morton and featuring Irene Cheng, Charles Davis, and Mabel Wilson, editors of Race and Modern Architecture.2 This volume marks a critical contribution to the scholarship, and its publication during a time of widespread engagement with the Black Lives Matter social justice imperative has reinforced our awareness that we need to rethink approaches and methodologies across the discipline. The SAH CONNECTS discussion provided a vital means of promoting and amplifying the book's urgent message. By the same token, this digital forum enabled our community to come together in a new way: many of us in the wake of COVID-19 are now using Zoom to teach online, but the informal, spontaneous character of the “Celebrating the Book” conversation suggests that instant online communication platforms can have meaningful applications for scholarship as well. As suggested by SAH CONNECTS's new and growing database of virtual programming, the transformation of basic forms of scholarly communication may also encourage the development of new and creative ways to engage an ever broader range of publics. SAH CONNECTS's flexible format may be ideal for supporting work that does not always fit neatly into the scholarly articles and reviews that are the mainstay of JSAH, and thus may offer emerging scholars another venue through which they can publicize their work. I have begun conversations with members of the SAH Board to develop a new digital component to complement the articles and reviews that we publish in the JSAH print edition. By seeking to expand JSAH's existing array of virtual offerings in this way, we hope to “give voice” to increasing numbers of authors, adding an audiovisual dimension to our published materials that will introduce more readers, listeners, and viewers to JSAH's innovative research.
Much remains to be determined regarding the best way to proceed in the coming months and years, but I trust that as we continue to move forward the right path will become clearer. I will close by thanking my predecessor Keith Eggener, who has promoted wide-ranging investigations of the highest quality, and whose generous and meticulous work on the journal has been profoundly appreciated by both authors and readers. I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of retiring exhibition review editor Richard Anderson and multimedia review editor Ewan Branda, and to introduce book review editor Ann Huppert (for Europe, Africa, and Asia to 1750) and exhibition review editor Patricio del Real, who join book review editors Gail Fenske and Cole Roskam on the masthead. Finally, my thanks to the current members of the JSAH Editorial Advisory Committee: Sussan Babaie, Jelena Bogdanov, Joseph Heathcott, Michael Lewis, Flavia Marcello, Adnan Morshed, Katherine Solomonson, and Robin Thomas. We are fortunate at JSAH to be able to draw upon the generous contributions of such a talented and committed group of scholars.
I look forward to learning more from our community of authors and readers, and I welcome your comments and suggestions as we continue to work together to advance the scholarly mission of JSAH.
“Connecting Art Histories,” Getty Foundation, https://www.getty.edu/foundation/initiatives/current/cah (accessed 4 Nov. 2020).
“Celebrating the Book: Race and Modern Architecture,” SAH CONNECTS, Society of Architectural Historians, https://www.sah.org/conferences-and-programs/sah-connects/race-and-modern-architecture (accessed 4 Nov. 2020); Irene Cheng, Charles L. Davis II, and Mabel O. Wilson, eds., Race and Modern Architecture: A Critical History from the Enlightenment to the Present (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).