At the annual meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine meeting in Baltimore this past weekend, we learned of a very cool endeavor undertaken by a group of public historians and other scholars interested in making academic work accessible to the general public. Launched on April 2, the Ultimate History Project publishes engaging, short-form historical scholarship on a wide variety of topics. It aims to become both a resource for the nonfiction reading public and a forum where trained and amateur historians can exchange ideas and learn from one another.
The Project first drew our attention because it was the most lively of all the spaces in the AAHM exhibit hall. Amid the staid–some may say stodgy–atmosphere of university press and antiquarian book dealer stands, the Ultimate History Project’s display stood out. Their selection of T-shirts and coffee mugs bearing artwork commissioned by the Works Progress Administration was as eye-grabbing as it was abnormal for this normally restrained exhibit hall. The women working the table were energetic and outgoing–and, as it turns out, one of them happened to be JHU Press author Lexi Lord, who wrote the award-winning Condom Nation. Lexi founded the Ultimate History Project along with her sister Victoria, a freelance writer trained in medieval history and the Old and Middle Irish languages, and Sheena M. Morrison, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University.
The trio is backed by a board of directors that includes another JHU Press author, Manon Parry, coeditor of Women Physicians and the Cultures of Medicine (which coincidentally received the Publication Award from the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences at the start of the 2012 AAHM meeting), and several other historians from inside and outside of academia. The website has already published articles on topics such as the Soviet Union’s attempts to get Uzbek women to “throw off the veil,” Jamaica’s past as a haven for escaped slaves, and the possibility that mancala is the world’s oldest board game.
As an institution we applaud the Ultimate History Project and wish Lexi and the rest the best in their quest to broaden the academic dialogue and disseminate the knowledge of the academy more widely. As nerds of different sorts (we do, after all, work in scholarly publishing), well, this website is just too much fun not to visit.