Announcing the Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index

Here it is, the Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index. This is the project I’ve been working to make come to pass for the last few months. It is here. It is ready to go. In fact, it’s already underway.

It needs help, however. It needs visibility, volunteers, and a moderate amount of funding. Read on to find out what the project is and what you can do to support it if you want to see it succeed. And once you understand it, I think you’ll want to see it succeed.

Line graphic of an open magazine with a magnifying glass with "AHSHI" in the lens. Text below: Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index

What is the AHS History Index?

What is the AHS History Index? The Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index is a project to make the information contained in the publications of these movements easily discoverable by historians and anyone else with an interest in the history of these movements. Several organizations have done a good job of collecting this information and making it accessible to people who ask to see it, but it’s difficult to ask for things you don’t know exist. This project aims to fix that problem.

Our initial focus is on U.S. movement materials. To start, this project will:

  1. Survey digitized periodicals to identify people of interest (subjects, writers, publishing staff), locations of events, court cases and legislation, movement-sponsored events, and subject matter at the article level. Ads will also be analyzed.
  2. Use this information to build an index of this information on a wiki platform. Lists and cross-links will be employed in order to aid discovery. Access to editing this index will be limited to enable quality control.
  3. Highlight the occasional article of interest to get people engaged with the material.
  4. Collect and provide information on the location of the resources indexed and who to contact for access.

On an ongoing basis, we will work with organizations to determine what materials they have archived that should be included in the index and to find funding and other resources to make digitization possible where it is still necessary and desirable. We will also incorporate other movement materials (conference talks, books, etc.) as this can be accomplished without compromising the core mission of the index.

History is always in danger of being forgotten. The history of these movements are too critical to allow that to happen to us. Whether our interests lie in not repeating parts of our history or in seeing it broadcast far and wide, making that history easier to find will only aid us in that goal.


Q: Why include [choose one: atheism/humanism/skepticism]?
A: These three movements are deeply interlinked, both in membership and in topics of interest. The overlap isn’t 100%, but there is enough to make all three movements potentially of interest to a person studying any one.

Q: Why focus on the U.S.?
A: We have to start somewhere, and the religious tensions in the U.S. have made it a hotbed of activism. That gives us a rich cache of materials and lots of interesting stories to work from. Also, the people starting the project live here. We’re open to adding materials though, as long as it doesn’t stop us from working on the initial project.

Q: Aren’t archives dry and boring?
A: We don’t think so, but we know a lot of people do. That’s why we want to enable people to bring stories out of these archives and tell them in ways more people than us will find interesting.

Donating to the AHS History Index

The Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index will run largely on volunteer labor, but it needs more. When you donate to the index, your money is paying for administration and quality control. That may not sound very exciting, but it’s critical to a project like this.

Administration means recruiting and training volunteers, finding and surveying materials to be included, and coordinating efforts to get all materials indexed as efficiently as possible. Quality control allows us to achieve high accuracy without relying on professionals for the bulk of the work. (We are consulting with archivists on building the index.)

The initial budget will cover project setup, indexing the 200+ issues of American Atheist already publicly available, and recruiting additional organizations to have their materials included in the index. Additional funds raised will be used to index additional material as we gain access.

Donate here.

The AHS History Index is a project of Secular Woman, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Your donations to this project are tax-deductible in the U.S.

Volunteering for the AHS History Index

So you’ve heard about the Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index and you want to help? Oh, you wonderful people. Thank you!

Here are our current needs:

  • We need indexing volunteers. This involves reading magazines and newsletters and providing us notes in a spreadsheet form about the content. We will provide the form, the reading material, and training in coding the data we need. Timing is flexible, and you can commit to as little as a single issue. We are currently working out volunteer rewards, but all indexing volunteers receive our public thanks.
  • We need copies of missing materials. Even in the best archiving system, things go missing. It may be a single issue, or it may be years of an organization’s publication history. When surveying a publication, we make note of what’s missing. If you see something a library has or you have in your collection, let us know so we can coordinate getting a copy.
  • We need local group participation. The history of local groups is most in danger of disappearing, as these groups have traditionally been least focused on preserving their legacies. But local groups are important! They’re also harder for us to find out about. If you don’t see your group’s publication(s) on this list, contact us to let us know about it. Please contact us even if that publication isn’t digitized and even if most of its back issues are missing. We can make both of these easier for you.
  • We need national group participation. If you belong to one of these groups, you’re already on our list of people to talk to about this project. Feel free to contact us first, though. We’re happy to prioritize by interest.
  • We need people to digitize publications. There probably isn’t much work in this for any one volunteer. However, this material is all over the country, so if this is something you have the equipment and knowledge to do well, we’d like to know about you so we can call on you in the future.
  • We need help raising funds. Any project that aims to be this thorough requires coordination, and this project requires too much coordination to be a volunteer position. So we need to raise funds. Donating helps, but so does spreading the word to potential donors. Also, please let us know if you know of any grants that would cover this work.
  • We need help finding more volunteers. Know someone who would enjoy contributing to the project? Tell them about it.

Find Out More

You can check out this press release from Secular Woman for more information, or see what we’ve started doing with the American Atheist magazine archives.

Announcing the Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index