Unexpectedly spending a couple of extra days in Chicago this January, as I viewed quiet snowfall against the backdrop of the seasonal lights on the Wrigley Building and watched the gradual freezing of the Chicago River, I found moments of calm to reflect on the state of our APA as I had come to know it during my year as President-Elect. One deceptively simple word seemed to encapsulate the complex process of finding our way forward in this fast-paced world as an organization devoted to the distant past, and that word is service. The APA is a service organization, which has traditionally meant service to those who choose to be members but now increasingly means also service to others, to any and all who wish to participate in our various explorations of the classical world. How to frame the interaction of these two is our current challenge.
The traditional services offered by the APA are alive and well. Our professional staff, typically unobserved, continues to put on a smooth-running annual meeting where members present their scholarship, learn from others, and exchange ideas with old friends and new acquaintances. Again somewhat inconspicuously, APA officers and volunteer members offer advice to departments and programs in difficulty and uphold standards of ethical behavior in scholarly and professional activities. The future of the Placement Service was a concern this past year, when the AIA withdrew from joint participation with the APA to set up their own service that did not include arrangement of interviews. As it turns out, however, our initial concern was misplaced because participation of institutions and candidates in the APA Placement Service actually increased at the 2014 meeting. In addition, our system of arranging interviews proved vital as many candidates and interviewers were delayed due to the weather and our staff was called upon to revise schedules.
The APA has long been devoted to undertaking key projects that promote research. Members are familiar with the essential work performed by the American Office of L’année philologique, supported by your dues, generous annual giving, and a significant endowment raised through our capital campaign. I call your attention as well to the APA’s newest research initiative, the Digital Latin Library (DLL), undertaken in conjunction with the Medieval Academy of America and the Renaissance Society of America. Supported by grant funding from the Mellon Foundation, the DLL is envisioned, broadly speaking, as the APA’s contribution to the revolution that is digital humanities. It will provide a website populated by editions of Latin works that include an apparatus criticus, where individuals can browse, read, comment, edit, and publish new digital editions that exceed the possibilities offered by printed texts. For instance, these editions could include links to manuscripts and collations, lists of variants not placed in the apparatus, and commentary at adjustable levels of detail, including discussion of editorial choices. In the language of Sam Huskey, the project’s director, scholars using the site will be able to combine “traditional philological methods with new technology to expand the reach and capabilities of Latin scholarship and pedagogy.” Click here for a fuller description.
While we remain true to our core identity as the principal North American organization devoted to advancing knowledge about the classical world, the APA is also increasingly committed to becoming a public voice in support of study of classics and a resource for non-professionals who wish to learn from our explorations. This means that the service provided by the APA, soon to become the SCS (Society for Classical Studies), is now directed not just to serving its membership but also increasingly to informing others who share our enthusiasms or may come to do so. Your support for the APA, through membership and volunteer work, is thus expanding to become support for classics more broadly conceived. I consider this expansion of the activities of the APA essential to the future of classics, as our organization learns how to share the conversations we have as scholars with the broader public. As part of this approach, the Board of Directors recently approved two new categories of associate membership which are designed to affiliate persons who desire to engage with and support our mission but do not require the benefits of full membership. Ronnie Ancona, before completing her term as Vice-President for Education, proposed an associate membership for K-12 teachers who wish to receive information from the APA but not be active members, and I proposed a similar associate membership, called Friends of Classics, directed toward non-professionals who wish to learn about the ancient world and to support the work of our organization. As potential Friends, I was thinking particularly of the thousands who have studied Classics at some level, whether in high school, as a classics major, or at the graduate level, and who remain passionate about antiquity while enjoying careers in other fields. Many of these, as well as others fascinated by the ancient world, now have a means to affiliate themselves with the APA/SCS. These associate memberships will create an eager audience to whom we may communicate about Classics and will help to create a network of persons who support our initiatives.
Since its founding in 1869, the APA has continually evolved to meet the needs of scholars who study Greek and Latin texts and the cultures in which they were produced. In our contemporary world where Greek and Latin have long since ceased to be the core of higher education, our organization continues its journey, by serving the professional needs of its members while sharing their intellectual and scholarly endeavors with a wider community. Clearly the name change to Society for Classical Studies, which will take effect in the coming months, marks a watershed in the organization’s history. My personal message to you, however, is that the change is in no way a diminution of what the organization stands for but a sign of its commitment to increasing its range of service. As a member of the APA/SCS, you will be a part of the efforts to do more. You will not only continue to receive the benefits of professional services and intellectual exchange but also contribute to increasing awareness of classics as a fundamental part of our cultural heritage.
Kathryn J. Gutzwiller