American History Now is an experiment in scholarly communication. Neither a scholarly journal nor a blog, American History Now highlights new ways of writing, reading, and disseminating ideas in the digital realm. We’re looking to bypass the inertia of 19th century models of publishing, creating a new model of publishing and dissemination that relies on the principles of curation and collaboration. We aim to use digital tools to build communities of shared interest within and beyond the boundaries of academia.

For our first venture into this new model of scholarship, we are assembling a special issue of American History Now with a focus on the history of vinyl. A time-limited project, the issue will consider vinyl record albums, the sales of which increased more than 700% last year, but is also open to considerations of vinyl as a multi-use “miracle material” of the last century. We will collect articles on the history and technology of vinyl and its uses, drawn from scholarly publications in various fields, selected from blog posts, and from the work of non-scholar enthusiasts.

We hope you’ll participate. We plan to acquire and share original contributions of roughly 800-1600 words on record collecting and its pleasures/problems, on the sonic qualities of vinyl, on the production, distribution, and marketing of records, on their storage and consumption and use. If you’d like to add your contributions to our efforts, instructions on how to do so can be found on our Submit page. Please submit your work prior to April 15, 2014.

The main Content of American History Now contains the posts from all our contributors. In keeping with our mission to experiment with a curation model of publishing, Mike O’Malley, a professor of American history at George Mason University and the project’s intellectual lead, will act as curator, pulling from the content materials that best reflect the project’s goals. These are featured in the Curator’s Selections. At the end of the project, O’Malley and the AHNow editorial board will produce an ebook exhibit; a curated volume that offers an alternative American history of vinyl, one created through this new publishing model.

In keeping with our desire to create community, each post can be commented upon so readers can add their own thoughts. And each comment and post can be “ranked” by the site’s readers. In addition, you can offer the curator your thoughts on the site as a while through the Feedback Form. Public comments will be moderated for civility and pertinence by AHN’s editors. Our editors will utilize these comments and rankings when, in late Spring 2014, we pull together the curated ebook.

American History Now has been established by the PressForward initiative, an Alfred P. Sloan foundation-funded project based in the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. PressForward’s mission includes finding new models of scholarly communication, and American History Now is part of a larger research project in the aggregation, curation, and dissemination of work published on the open web. The scope and diversity of that work lends itself to a single-issue focused site as much as a broad and wide-ranging one. We have launched this special issue as an experiment in that focus. In addition, we hope that it will inform, entertain, and augment the collection of knowledge on the history of vinyl. This, and any subsequent special issues, will provide the opportunity to consider the relationship between scholars and enthusiasts, as well as experiment with what historical writing can become when old models of publishing are abandoned for something more flexible, accessible, and responsive.


Editorial Board:

  • Mike O’Malley, Curator
  • Stephanie Westcott, Managing Editor
  • Sasha Hoffman, Editor
  • Ben Schneider, Editor
Vinyl is the real deal. I've always felt like, until you buy the vinyl record, you don't really own the album. And it's not just me or a little pet thing or some kind of retro romantic thing from the past. It is still alive. ----- Jack White