IALHI

International Association of Labour History Institutions

XXVIII Conference, Silver Spring, MD, 1997 Minutes

For the first time a IALHI Annual Conference took place outside of Europe, viz. in the educational centre of the AFL-CIO, the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, near Washington D.C. The decision was not an unproblematic one as was made clear by the number of participants: a large number of representatives from institutions that normally attend the Annual Conference did not make it this year: Austria, Sweden and Spain had no representation, and Germany, Italy and Belgium were only represented by one institution each. However, one important purpose was to tempt American institutes into taking an interest in the IALHI, and thus to brake out of the (West)European mould. This purpose was well served, and at the end of the day 24 institutions from 14 countries were represented. It is regrettable, that high travelling expenses impede transatlantic (and farther) connections.

The Conference had been prepared by the George Meany Center in an exemplary manner. The warm welcome accorded to the IALHI Conference by various institutions also demonstrated the strong position of the Center in North American Labor research. The Center pursues virtually no independent research, but its periodical Labor's Heritage is obviously an important source of dissemination, and when it comes to the organisation of various documentation projects the Center obviously fulfils an important role.

The Conference opened on Labor Day - the history of which was briefly outlined by Bob Reynolds - and was inaugurated by a recital by Joe Glazier, a singer well rooted in the American song tradition, of various Labor songs from the time of the Wobblies and until our own times.

The secretary, Wouter Steenhaut, AMSAB, presented the annual report to the assembly. Two new institutions were admitted to the organisation: University of North London (TUC Library), and the Revolutionary Museum in Moscow; several others had requested information material. Presently the nominal membership of the IALHI is 96 out of whom, however, only 46 had paid their subscription fee for 1997; this is no substantial change on previous years and the IALHI Coordination Committee (CC) therefore suggested a graduation of the subscription fees, and also that "better-off" members should "adopt" less well-off members. Both proposals were adopted. Furthermore the CC proposed that it be expanded by one member: this ninth member is to be elected by and among the museum group members. This proposal was also adopted and in the course of autumn the museum group will organise this election by means of a circular letter. The CC is examining the possibility of effecting a formal affiliation of IALHI members within the European Union in order to improve their financial position, if possible.

In late 1997 or early 1998 a new version of the IALHI Directory will be published. The IALHI Newsletter is being published in a new series; the nine issues that have been published so far were all in hardcopy, in future the Newsletter will be published electronically to be updated on a continuous basis, and to be published biannually in a hardcopy version (No. 1, August 1997), that can be ordered free of charge from the IISG. Members may forward their input to IISG (http://www.iisg.nl). The IALHI website, which also contains the statutes and relevant addresses can be accessed at http://www.ialhi.org.

The IALHI projects are in the following stages of development: The reading list on Workers' migration will probably appear before the end of 1997; the bibliography of the publications of the Social Democratic Internationals (II International/LSI /SI) 1914-1997 is in progress; the list of microfilms of trade union central publications is under preparation. The inventory of Current, Scholarly Periodicals and Yearbooks on Labour History has been completed and will be published in the next IALHI Newsletter. This inventory can be revised at a later stage.

Work is continuing on the ICFTU history, the date of publication is envisaged to be the autumn of 1999, perhaps on the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the ICFTU. More or less simultaneously a scholarly symposium will be organised to be prepared at an internal seminar in 1998. A Telematics project has been initiated by, so far, seven IALHI affiliates. The libraries have committed themselves to enter ten periodicals in a shared database, i.e. to record the list of content and to making the articles available to any users. This list can be found on the IALHI homepage (see above); some lists of content can already be found now.

As Hermann Rösch has left the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Rüdiger Zimmermann was co-opted to the CC. The next conference will be held in September 1998 in Milan; it will be organised by the Feltrinelli Institute and will be a coproduction between the IALHI and the Section of Business and Labour Archives of the ICA. In 1999 the Conference will be held in Amsterdam. Oslo, Tampere and Stockholm have declared their interest in organising subsequent Conferences.

In the course of the Conference several archives, universities, museums and libraries were visited and/or presented to the participants. More than 20 institutions - often hosted in universities - have taken over archives and collections related to the Labour movement. Some only administer these archives, others pursue an active policy of acquisition. In order to coordinate these efforts, a "Labor Archives Appraisal Project" has been set up, and existing findings and proposals under the project were reviewed. It seems that only the Tamiment Institute (New York) to which the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives is associated can be compared to the institutions engendered by the Labour movement, which generally are both archives and libraries, and even this comparison halts since the Tamiment Institute is incorporated in the private New York University.

Nevertheless there are extensive and valuable collections also containing material relating to the Labour movement and to Labour issues outside North America. Here mention should be made of e.g. the library of the Department of Labor whose collection is very extensive - e.g. statistics on Labour issues - but is an institution finding itself in a difficult situation as the library has no autonomous budget and has been starved of resources for years.

Generally an impression was evoked at the Conference of far-reaching and extensive collections that are also being used for scholarly work, illustrated by the example of the Canadian Committee on Labour History.

In addition to the presentations and visits it was possible to establish and develop contacts with North American institutions that are of great importance for the future work of the IALHI and especially to its affiliates.

 

Gerd Callesen (ABA)