Journalists seeking fresh, fast and thoughtful insight from the nation’s foremost historians can now consult a database of experts assembled by the Organization of American Historians (OAH).
The idea for the database sprung up after the 2016 elections, says OAH executive director Katherine Finley. OAH began to get a lot of calls about the issues posed regarding immigration, women’s rights and confederate monuments, among others. “It was journalists wanting to talk to one of our historians to put the issue in historical perspective,” says Finley. Unfortunately, she explained, a lot of these calls or requests would come in with a tight deadline, and opportunities would be missed.
“We have a great group of people to inform these issues and provide assistance to journalists,” she says.
This free database was made possible by the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The database has over 650 historians who are ready to comment on current events and place complicated issues in historical context. The database is organized into 18 different categories and is available to all members of the media – local, national and international; broadcast, print, and online. And the OAH curates it on a regular basis as topics develop and new, diverse historians emerge that are ready to add their voices to the conversation.
To use the database, journalists must register and provide proof they are with a news agency to prevent abuse or trolling of the database.
Journalists will find bios for each historian and examples of their previous work with the media. They can search by categories that cover all subjects and eras of U.S. history including politics, civil rights, women, race relations, immigration, religion, business and capitalism, environmental protection, monuments and memorials, agriculture and food, presidents, constitutional law and sports.
Since the launch, reporters from the History Channel, The Washington Post, New York Public Radio, PBS, The Texas Tribune and the National Press Foundation have registered.
Finley also stresses the OAH is open to feedback on the database. “We want it to be a resource for journalists and make sure it is useful for them. Let us know any ways we could make it better.”