ATLANTA - Effective January 1, 2013, the history department at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta will become the new host for the executive office of the Oral History Association (OHA), the national professional association for the field. Dr. Clifford Kuhn, associate professor of history at GSU and a past president of OHA, will serve as the association’s first full time executive director. These changes are the result of a national search which began when Dickinson College, OHA’s current home, determined that it would be unable to renew its contract, set to expire on December 31, 2012. Madelyn Campbell, OHA's executive secretary, announced her retirement effective the same date. OHA’s contract with GSU extends through December 31, 2017, with an option for renewal at the end of the five-year period.
While numerous institutions around the United States expressed strong interest in hosting OHA, none offered GSU’s combination of institutional fit, community support, and financial backing, which included support for a respected leader in the field of oral history as executive director, as well as for a part-time program associate and graduate student assistants. According to OHA president Mary Larson, "The move to Georgia State represents the next stage in OHA's evolution, and we're all very excited about the new opportunities this arrangement presents for both our organization and GSU. We are particularly impressed by the level of support and enthusiasm on the part of Georgia State's administration, and we look forward to working with them in the future."
Michelle Brattain, chair of the history department who submitted the proposal on behalf of GSU and was the university’s primary point of contact during contract negotiations, added that "the prospect of hosting OHA presented us with a terrific opportunity to enhance the department’s successful public history program and to strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration between all oral history practitioners at our university and within our community. We couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome."
The appointment of Dr. Kuhn as executive director will open up opportunities to develop the association’s reach nationally and internationally and to expand programming in ways that advance the field. Among his first duties will be the initiation of a strategic planning process to guide the association over the next five years. According to Dr. Kuhn, "While oral history practice has never been more extensive, much of this work has largely bypassed the national professional organization in the field. With the new structure, the OHA has the potential to become the go-to place for oral history in the United States, the primary portal for anyone interested in oral history.”
Dr. Kuhn, who has been a member of the GSU faculty since 1988, has a long affiliation with OHA and oral history. In addition to serving as OHA president in 2000-2001, he has been a member of the OHA Council and Nominating Committee along with other elected and appointed responsibilities. In addition, he has a number of scholarly publications and has been a leader in the Atlanta public history community.
An ad hoc Transition Committee co-chaired by OHA’s immediate past president Rina Benmayor and past president Linda Shopes led the search for a new institutional home and executive director, with committee members Laurie Mercier, also a past president of the association, and Roger Horowitz, chair of OHA’s Finance Committee. Executive Secretary Madelyn Campbell served on the committee ex officio. Their work was facilitated early on by consultations with John Dichtl, executive director of the National Council for Public History, and Timothy Lloyd, executive director of the American Folklore Society.