On February 6, 2015, the inaugural issue of AHAA’s online journal launched, but the idea of Panorama had been in the works for many years before that.
In the summer of 2012, a proposal for a new journal circulated among a number of AHAA members; prospective board members volunteered, emailed, and met; and funding fell into place in the way it always does—only through the hard work of vision-crafting, budget-drafting, and pitching. By the following summer, the editor positions had been filled and the journal’s first manuscripts went out for review. Although the three founding co-executive editors—Ross Barrett, Sarah Burns, and Jenn Marshall—had clearly in mind the board’s vision of what Panorama might be and mean for the field, we were babes in the woods of what it required to publish a journal, online or otherwise. There was more to learn than any of us initially supposed. The journal was quite literally a tabula rasa. How to fill it in? The board and editors wanted to publish innovative and substantial scholarly feature articles, but we were all also keen to explore other formats and kinds of features that would take advantage of new technologies; provide forums for collaboration, conversation, and experimentation; and offer more timely responses to ongoing challenges in the academic world and the larger one in which it lives. The journal seemed the perfect place to try out new ideas of all stripes. We could publish standard items such as book and exhibition reviews with considerably more speed than hard-copy journals, for example, and the “Bully Pulpit” was born and continues to thrive, with numerous colleagues weighing in and clashing on issues critical to the state and future of the field. A key motivation in establishing Panorama had always been the need to support emerging voices. Our “Research Notes” goes perhaps the furthest to this end: short dispatches from ongoing projects, written in a lively and relatively informal style.
In the eighteen-month run between first submissions and first issue, the editorial team confronted the many challenges that come with building a journal from the ground up. What would the masthead look like; what fonts should be adopted? (Enter: Curt Lund, a graphic designer, artist, and curator based in Minneapolis and the man behind these decisions.) Who would design and build the journal’s template? (Enter: Scott Sayres and Sandbox Studios, our WordPress designers.) As we kept moving, questions kept coming. What style would we adopt for notes and captions? Who would do copy-editing? How should we go about procuring an ISSN number, or indexing the journal in scholarly databases, and what about copyright questions? How should we advertise the journal to new readers and authors, and how should we harness social media? Even given these macro concerns, often the more pressing issue was how a crew of volunteer academic editors was to manage and keep track of the countless details in day-to-day management?
In the short term, we coped. Little by little, we conquered. Through the good offices of the University of Minnesota (specifically the College of Liberal Arts and the Department of Art History), we were able to hire a graduate student as Managing Editor. Andrea Truitt (now Dr. Truitt) stepped into this position and, in so doing, created its parameters. With new funding, this position will continue to be indispensable to the smooth running of the journal and its ever-tightening ship. We also hired a copy-editor, Valerie Ann Leeds, who has been a life-saver, face-saver, and our steady counsel as we continue to hone our style guide. Our inaugural area editors—John Bowles, Mishoe Brennecke, Jessica Marten, Kevin Murphy, Jordana Moore Saggasse, Naomi Slipp, and Sally Webster—were fearless and intrepid as they invented their own sets of protocol and procedures. Needless to say, all of this work was possible only in the first instance thanks to the material and moral support of AHAA itself and its own team of leaders. Likewise, our external funders have also been tremendous: UMN, the Wyeth Foundation, and the Luce Foundation. Indeed, grants from the Luce—from our inception to recent gifts—have been instrumental in enabling us to achieve our goals and to plan for the future, which include projects that will allow us to exploit the dynamic capabilities of a fully realized digital publication. Finally, we could never have gotten Panorama off the ground without the trust, collaboration, and scholarship of our authors. We are in debt to them, as well as to the numerous colleagues who have supported us along the way.
This issue of Panorama marks the end of its first phase and the start of a new maturity. Ross Barrett cycled off the executive editorial team early in 2017. Now, with the publication of 3:1, Sarah Burns and Jenn Marshall are also stepping down. All three of us will continue to support the journal as Founding Editors; Jenn will stay on in a different capacity through the launch of a to-be-announced new development. Succeeding us in executive office is a brilliant, visionary, and energetic new team. Betsy Boone (Professor, University of Alberta) has been a very welcome addition since she came on board in late 2016, and Lauren Lessing (Mirken Director of Academic and Public Programs, Colby College Museum of Art) officially begins her term with this issue. The third member of the new troika will be John Bowles (Associate Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), set to join at the end of this calendar year.
We outgoing editors feel that the journal, having mounted so many of its early challenges to become, in short order, an established presence in the field, is poised to move forward in capable hands. We are proud of the sturdy foundation we’ve established and look forward to witnessing the new heights to which Betsy, Lauren, and John will take the journal, with the help of the larger editorial team and board. In an early, galvanizing memo, Ross wrote that “a commitment to methodological innovation and diversity [will be] a central aspect of its overall mission.” Panorama remains committed to this goal; in its service, we’ve only just begun.
Sarah Burns, Professor Emeritus, Indiana University
Jennifer Jane Marshall, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota