Vol. V, No. 4 (November 2008)
A look at Gijs Mom and the foundation of our Association.
From the perspective of institutional history or from the perspective of organizational sociology, one could argue, our international Association for the History of transport, traffic and mobility – T2M – was founded because the time to found it had come; because the community of mobility historians was ready for take-off. To my mind, this perspective is misleading, because the answer is simpler: T2M was founded because Gijs Mom wanted to found an international association. He asked, pushed forward and persuaded the first members, invited us for the first conference in Eindhoven, took over editorship of the JTH and by this realized the merger of British transport history and the growing new international community of mobility historians. We are his baby, it is as simple as that. All other colleagues, I would assess as good and helpful framework conditions at the beginning. The end of the story looks a bit different with Gijs looking for stimulating new goals, founding new yearbooks, maybe even new journals (hopefully not new associations!). Let me say to Gijs and to all of us: this task is not finished, it will keep you and us busy in the years to come.
Before Ottawa, the Executive Committee discussed how to honour our past president. Not only for psychological reasons, we decided to send him up in a balloon, together with his wife Charley, the famous tango dancer of the Eindhoven confe-rence. The dangerous balloon ride should under-line that Gijs is one an upwards mover and that there are challenges to master out there. At the end, however, every balloon has to come down to earth again, where we will await him.
A look at “jobs” within T2M
I mentioned the perspective of organizational sociology, which I will use for a look into the future of T2M. From this perspective, organizations are as good as the number of possibilities for activities they offer, or, more precisely, the number of meaningful interpretable activities. We do not offer enough activities which are attractive for our fellow colleagues inside and outside T2M, and that is the main reason for the limited pace of growth. We have to offer more “jobs” within T2M. I see my main responsibility as new President to do exactly that, to ask you to step in by taking responsibilities. I see my self as a job creator. But, please come up with offers yourself. Send me an e-mail. Do not wait for me to ask you first. If you have an idea about what should be done in our Association, or what others should do, please do not hesitate to contact me or any other EC member: they are all waiting to serve you.
A look at jobs
Historical transport, traffic and mobility studies are not lacking interesting themes, but they are lacking jobs and funding institutions. From a thematic perspective, we are a booming field, but not from an institutional perspective. We should work on this. I see it as my duty and as a duty of T2M to create new jobs in the field, to ask universities with programs in the history of technology, in urban studies and urban history, in metropolitan studies, in transport planning and in mobility studies to create positions in our field, which is still undervalued, although it is on an upwards move. I would like to see more of you in tenured position in our field.
Joint Research Projects
Most academic associations do not organize research projects, but serve as forum for presenting and discussing research concepts and results. We are doing this, with stimulating conferences as we did in September in our annual conference in Ottawa. I think, however, we can do more. We can (and should) come up with joint research consortia, for three reasons:
1. It is a first step to create new (non-tenured) jobs, and we do not have enough academic positions in the field yet.
2. We are the only truly international (and thus internationally comparative) active association in the field. We are the best platform to organize international consortia. We cannot leave it to others: they – at the end of the day – forget about transport and mobility. We have seen that in the last years.
3. Our field is interesting for funding institutions not only in the field of history, but in the field of transport planning, mobility studies, urban studies, tourism, logistics, and we should make use of this. As the COST 340 network (Transnational Transport Net-works. Lessons from History) has indicated, applied research programmes are willing to listen to us and to fund our research.
Last, not least, joint research deepens the collaboration between us. It is a qualitative step compared to talking to ourselves at annual conferences. This higher quality is needed and thus we need joint projects.
Transport museums or, better, museums are the largest employers of transport and mobility historians. However, we do not have many curators in our members list. Museums so far have served as locations for our annual meetings: the National Rail-way Museum in York, The Henry Ford in Detroit, the DAF Museum in Eindhoven, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, and in the coming years the Swiss Transport Museum and the Deutsches Technikmuseum. I think, we should aim to attract museum curators as members and responsible Executive Committee officers of our society. I am especially thankful that Garth Wilson is willing to lead this campaign.
We are the most active international association in the field. Who else, if not we – transport, traffic and mobility experts – have the duty to build an international network? Other so called international associations often are in fact national organizations with some international members. But: our internationality does not go much beyond Europe and North America. We need more members from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. I am very happy that we now have possible invitations to India and South Africa. I know that travel costs for the European and American members will be high, but I think it is a necessary and promising step.