Drew Gilpin Faust Defends the National Endowment for the Humanities

antietam

Drew Gilpin Faust, a Civil War historian and president of Harvard University, has taken to the op-ed page of The New York Times today to defend the National Endowment for the Humanities.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Sept. 17, 1862, was the bloodiest battle day in United States history. More Americans — some 3,600 — died as Northern and Southern armies clashed at the Battle of Antietam, in western Maryland, than on any other single day before or since, even more than on Sept. 11.

One hundred and fifty years later, as the National Park Service commemorated the terrible loss at Antietam, I stood on the stage in a large tent on the battlefield before several hundred eager tourists, curious locals and enthusiastic Civil War buffs of every age and origin.

We had gathered to discuss a documentary made by Ric Burns based on a book I had written about death and the Civil War, a chronicle of the experiences of more than 700,000 Americans who died between 1861 and 1865, leaving a nation of mourners in a world profoundly altered by the scale of such human tragedy. The audience posed questions to Ric and me about history, about war, about patriotic sacrifice, about American identity, about the meanings of life and death and human mortality — and about how all those things were both different and the same across the century and a half that separated us from our Civil War ancestors.

Ric’s film, and the moving discussion it generated, were made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Reports suggest that the Trump administration’s coming budget will defund the endowment.

I would wager that few readers of this newspaper, and probably few Americans anywhere, are untouched by an N.E.H.-sponsored project or program. In 1990, for example, Ric Burns and his brother Ken produced an 11-and-a-half-hour documentary on the Civil War that was broadcast over five consecutive nights and seen by more than 40 million viewers. For much of the nation, it was an early form of binge-watching. The humanities endowment made that film possible.

Like its sibling the National Endowment for the Arts, the endowment brings the humanities into parts of the country that might otherwise never get to see a world-class museum exhibition or hear a lecture by a Pulitzer-Prize winner.

Read the rest here. In case you haven’t seen it, here is my Congressman’s take on this issue.

My Congressman Responds to My Letter About NEH Funding

NEH Logo MASTER_082010

A couple of weeks ago I wrote to my representative, Scott Perry, asking him to do everything in his power to preserve funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Today I received his response.  I am thankful for the response, but I am not optimistic.

March 6, 2017
Dear Dr. Fea,

Thank you for contacting me regarding federal funding for the arts and humanities. I appreciate hearing your views.

As you may know, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is an independent federal agency established by Congress in 1965 that promotes opportunities for the enjoyment of the arts. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and philanthropists, the NEA supports the arts in communities across America.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), another federal agency, is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. Founded in 1965, the NEH promotes excellence in the humanities by awarding grants to museums, archives, libraries, universities, radio stations and individual scholars.

Like you, I understand how valuable the arts and humanities are to our culture and economy. Given our current fiscal situation, we must carefully consider and monitor how we spend taxpayer dollars. Our debt is our greatest national security threat; it hurts our ability to create family-sustaining jobs and makes us uncompetitive globally. As the House of Representatives considers legislation to fund the NEA and the NEH, please know that I’ll certainly keep your thoughts in mind while also continuing the fight for a balanced budget

Once again, thank you for contacting me. I appreciate your concerns and encourage your continued feedback.  Please visit our website at perry.house.gov to submit further questions/comments or to sign up for our e-newsletter, Facebook page, and/or Twitter updates.

      Very Respectfully,

Scott Perry
Member of Congress

Report: National Endowment for the Humanities Will Be on the Chopping Block in the Trump Administration

c9ee1-nehThe Hill reports:

Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.

The changes they propose are dramatic.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition.

We can debate whether the United States government should be in the business of promoting the humanities. My position is that we cannot leave the funding of this kind of work to private interests and I am not sure that the states have the resources to promote the humanities effectively.

We will see how this develops.

Over the years I have written and posted a few things about humanities funding.

December 10, 2015: “Smithsonian Head: Government Must ‘Take the Lead’ in Funding the Humanities (TWOILH blog)

November 13, 2015: “The National Endowment for the Humanities Would Be on the Chopping Block in a Ted Cruz Presidency” (TWOILH blog)

April 3, 2014: NEH Under Attack Again (TWOILH blog)

October 31, 2013: Oppose Cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities (TWOILH blog)

November 6, 2013: “Here’s Why We’re Losing Our Democratic Soul.” (Harrisburg Patriot-News)

August 2011: Palin: “The National Endowment for the Humanities Needs to Go.” (TWOILH blog)

January 18, 2011: “Tradition Needs Preservation.” (Cato Unbound: A Journal of Debate)

March 5, 2010: “The State is Erasing It’s History” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Ken Burns Defends the Humanities and Storytelling

Ken-Burns-photo-3-06-Cable-Risdon-1-610x397Last night documentary film-maker Ken Burns used his National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture to defend humanities and the art of storytelling.

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed reports:

Ken Burns, the documentary maker who brought the Civil War, the histories of baseball and jazz, and the biographies of the Roosevelts to film, had a chance Monday night to honor the National Endowment for the Humanities, which supported much of his work. He praised the NEH for both its grants and its standards, and thanked the endowment for naming him to deliver this year’s Jefferson Lecture, the nation’s highest annual honor in the humanities.

Burns used the lecture to defend the humanities from its many attackers, to describe how those who work on issues of race (as he has done in many projects) face particular criticism and to champion the art of the narrative as a tool to advance history and promote a common understanding of society.

In his talk, Burns repeatedly said the humanities — by helping us understand such a broad range of different topics and perspectives — in fact promote unity through understanding. But he freely admitted that the denigrators of the humanities don’t see it that way.

“In a larger sense, the humanities help us all understand almost everything better — and they liberate us from the myopia our media culture and politics impose upon us. Unlike our current culture wars, which have manufactured a false dialectic just to accentuate otherness, the humanities stand in complicated contrast, permitting a nuanced and sophisticated view of our history, as well as our present moment, replacing misplaced fear with admirable tolerance, providing important perspective and exalting in our often contradictory and confounding manifestations,” he said in the prepared version of his talk. “Do we contradict ourselves? We do!”

Yet Burns said he worried that so many people don’t see value in contradictions that are informed by knowledge and perspective. “Somehow, in recent times, the humanities have been needlessly scapegoated in our country by those who continually benefit from division and obfuscation. Let me make it perfectly clear: the United States of America is an enduring humanistic experiment,” he said.

Read the rest here.

National Endowment For Humanities Announces Grant Recipients

22c73-neh2blogoThe National Endowment for the Humanities just funded 248 humanities projects.  Here are a few that caught my eye:

David Head, Spring Hill College: “Wavering on a Tremendous Precipice: George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Fate of the Continental Army Project.” A book-length study of George Washington’s Continental Army and the Newburgh Conspiracy of 1783 as a significant event in the formation of the new nation.

University of California, Santa Cruz (Project Director: Gregory O’Malley): “Final Passages: The Intra-American Slave Trade Database Project Description.” The addition of thousands of records of intra-American slave trafficking and a new “Final Passages” web interface into Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

University of Delaware (Project Director: Pier Foreman): “The Colored Conventions Project.” Enhancement of a website to document over 120 conventions organized by African-Americancommunities from the 1830s-1880s, including development of a reference database and fifteen interpretive exhibit

University of Florida Board of Trustees (Project Directors: Charles Cobb and Gifford Waters): “Cataloguing Franciscan Missions of La Florida Project.” The development of an online archive of archaeological materials from three Franciscan mission sites in Florida that document contact between Native Americans and Spanish colonists during the 17th and 18th centuries. The project would catalog and digitize 61,000 artifacts, making them and associated field records, site maps, and photographs publicly available

Jennifer Ladino, University of Idaho: “Affect and Environment at American Memory Sites Project.” Research for a book on the impact of affect and memory on national memorial sites and their landscapes.

New Orleans Kemper and Leila Williams Foundation (Project Director: Erin Greenwald): “Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865.” Implementation of a traveling exhibition with artifacts, a panel exhibition, an exhibition guide, and related public programs on the domestic slave trade from 1808 to 1865.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Project Director: Margery Sly): “In Her Own Right: Women Asserting their Civil Rights, 1820-1920.”  A planning project to develop a digital collection of archival sources pertaining to women’s rights in the 19th to early 20th centuries and held by 11 Philadelphia-area repositories, and to digitize an initial set of 1,500 items and produce a prototype website.

Library Company of Philadelphia (Project Director: James Green): “Long-Term Research Fellowships at the Library Company of Philadelphia.” 14 months of stipend support (2-3 fellowships) per year for three years and a contribution to defray costs associated with the selection of fellows.

Jeffrey Forret, Lamar University: “Williams’ Gang: A Slave Trader, His Cargo, and Justice in the Old South.” To support a book-length study of slave trader William H. Williams and the legal questions related to slave trading.

George Mason University  (Project Director: Sheila Brennan): “Mapping Early American Elections Project.” The geo-coding of records from 23,607 elections in the United States from 1787 to 1826, compiled for the resource “A New Nation Votes” (NNV), for use with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), along with the production of 84 interactive maps of national and state elections as well as tutorials and contextual essays to facilitate use.

Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest (Project Director: Wayne Gannaway): “Paths to Freedom, Paths to Happiness: Site-wide Interpretive Exhibits at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.” Planning of interpretive media and visitor experiences at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest retreat.

Christopher Newport University (Project Director: Brent Cusher): “NEH Enduring Questions Course on Ambition.” The development and teaching of a new undergraduate elective in the Leadership Studies curriculum on the nature of ambition.

Michael Woods, Marshall University Research Corporation: ” Arguing until Doomsday: Stephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and the Struggle for American Democracy.” A book-length study of the disagreements between Senators Stephen Douglas and Jefferson Davis that led to pre-Civil War division in the Democratic Party.

Former Chairman of the NEH Defends Humanities, Rips Humanities Scholars

ColeBruce Cole was the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 2001-2009.  Before joining the NEH he was a Distinguished Professor of Art History  and Professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University in Bloomington. He was appointed to the NEH chair by George W. Bush.  Cole is now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Washington D.C.

Cole offers a common conservative critique of the humanities.  It is also a critique that should be taken seriously regardless of how one views the world.

Here is a taste of his recent piece at The Public Discourse

Too many humanities scholars are alienating students and the public with their opacity, triviality, and irrelevance. A good case in point is this passage from Manifesto for the Humanities, a recent book by the director of an institute for the humanities at a major US university:

Writing this book, I came to see the new scholar subject as a performative of passionate singularity, hybrid materiality and networked relationality. This is one sense in which the humanities scholar that is becoming is possibly posthuman, and a posthumanist scholar. The locus of thinking, for the prosthetically extendable scholar joined along the currents of networked relationality, is an ensemble affair.

There’s no denying the importance of the humanities, but this sort of writing and thinking gives us a pretty good picture of why so many academics are alienating those who could benefit most from them.

It is undeniable that, for centuries, the humanities have made important contributions to other fields of inquiry, such as medicine, law, and engineering, to cite just a few. Ideally, university administrators, business executives, foundation directors, policymakers and many others—both in the private sector and in state and federal government—can and should benefit from the knowledge and wisdom embedded in the humanities. Unfortunately, these people are increasingly alienated from studying them in our colleges and universities.

I saw this as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency chartered to bring their benefits to all Americans. This gave me an up-close and personal view of the state of the humanities on the national level. That experience fortified my faith in their importance, but it also left me with serious doubts about how their values and knowledge are being transmitted.

Let me explain. The chairman is, by law, the only person in the agency who decides what gets funded. Recommendations for awards are made by peer review panels composed mainly of academics. These recommendations are then sent to the National Council on the Humanities, a board made up of twenty-six scholars and citizen members. The Council then makes its own recommendations and sends these on to the chairman, who then makes the final, and only, decision on the disbursement of funds.

Because I had to personally approve every grant, I attended hundreds and hundreds of peer review panels to be sure that I made informed decisions. I also read thousands of applications. Over the seven years I served as chairman, this gave me a unique overview of all the humanities disciplines, but for the sake of brevity, I will confine my observations to the content of applicants for NEH research fellowships. About half of all applications to the NEH are for such fellowships, most from humanities professors at the nation’s colleges and universities. On average, only about 8 percent of these are funded.

My experience with these applications was, to put it mildly, disappointing. The weaknesses and trends I observed in them are worth examining because they illustrate larger problems in today’s academy.

Obscurity is Not an Intellectual Virtue

Huge numbers of applications were written, and written badly, in fashionable and impenetrable jargon. The opacity of academic prose, much of it couched in unfathomable theory-speak (such as the prattled quote above), has long been the subject of discussion, and even mockery, much of it well deserved.

In some parts of the academy, such obscurantist writing is seen as a sign of brilliance, but that’s something I never understood. I suppose I’m very old-fashioned in believing that clear writing is the result of clear thought and that the use of jargon is sometimes the lazy way to avoid hard thinking. Whatever the cause, too many books and articles written by humanities professors are needlessly opaque. Moreover, great numbers of the applications I read dealt with amazingly tiny fragments of the applicants’ fields, a sort of atomization of inquiry.

Now, I am not against deep dives into seemingly arcane subjects. There was no more fervent defender and supporter of funds for The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon or The Sumerian Dictionary than I, because these seemingly obscure reference works advance and enrich our knowledge of their important subjects. The problem was, however, that many of the fellowship proposals asked for support for projects that did neither. They were simply frivolous and added no discernible value to their fields of study. Not all knowledge is equally useful; successful applications offered projects that were understandable and were likely to make an important impact on and contribution to humanities studies.

Equally disappointing was the fact that large numbers of applications stuck to the deeply grooved paths first trod by the postmodern humanities of the sixties and seventies. There was a uniformity, and conservatism, among them that indicated a lack of fresh thinking. Instead of advancing new ideas, such proposals left me with a feeling that their shelf lives had expired years before. Whatever their subjects, applicants often viewed their research exclusively through the same predictable lens of race, class, gender, theory, or some trivial aspects of popular culture. New and original approaches to the various areas of the humanities were all too rare.

Read the entire piece here.

National Endowment for the Humanities Announces December 2015 Grantees

From the NEH website:

WASHINGTON (December 14, 2015) — The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced $21.8 million in grants for 295 humanities projects, including new grants to digitize historical materials held by individuals, give a second life to important out-of-print humanities books, and support public programs on pressing contemporary challenges.   
These new NEH grants support vital research, education, and public programs in the humanities, including pioneering chemical testing procedures to safeguard fragile historical materials displayed in museums and the production of a documentary film on the Warsaw Ghetto’s secret archive that preserved 30,000 pages of diaries, letters, and records documenting the Jewish community during the Holocaust.
This round of funding also marks the first grant awards made under three new NEH grant programs: Common Heritage, Humanities in the Public Square, and Humanities Open Book. These three programs were created under the NEH initiative The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, which seeks to bring humanities into the public square and foster innovative ways to make scholarship relevant to contemporary life.
Here are a few of the grants that caught my eye:
Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor Outright: $33,600 [Fellowships for University Teachers] University of California, Davis Project Title: America Under the Hammer: Auctions and Market Culture, 1700-1850 Project Description: An economic, social, and cultural study of the role of auctions in early America. 
Zachary Hutchins Outright: $33,600 [Fellowships for University Teachers] Colorado State University Project Title: Newspaper Reading and Early American Narratives of Slavery. Project Description: An online database of early American newspaper references to slavery and a book-length study of the impact of early newspaper accounts on the development of American slave narratives. 
University of Illinois at Chicago Outright: $100,000 [Humanities Initiatives: HSIs] Project Director: Jennifer Scott Project Title: Securing the Common Good: Hull-House History at the University of Illinois at Chicago Project Description: A two-year project that seeks to integrate the Jane Addams Hull House Museum and its history of social reform into the university curriculum and bring the humanities to public service fields. 
Derrick Spires Outright: $50,400 [Fellowships for University Teachers] University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Project Title: Black Theories of Citizenship in the Early United States, 1787-1861 Project Description: A book-length study of conceptions of American citizenship expressed in black print culture between 1787 and 1861.
Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Outright: $225,000 [Humanities in the Public Square] NEH Grant Offers and Awards, December 2015 Page 27 of 73 400 7th Street, S.W., 4th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20506 P 202.606.8446 http://www.neh.gov Project Director: Miranda Restovic Project Title: A More Perfect Union: Civic Education for American Families Project Description: Implementation of six weekly reading and discussion programs on the Constitution and civic engagement at 32 sites across Louisiana for at-risk children and their families.
Maine Humanities Council Outright: $89,000 [Humanities in the Public Square] Project Director: Elizabeth Sinclair Match: $56,000 Project Title: A Broad and Sure Foundation: The 14th Amendment in American Life and Imagination Project Description: Implementation of a public forum and library-based public programs that explore the 14th Amendment’s history and legal relevance, focusing on African American literature around citizenship.
Town of Westborough Outright: $12,000 [Common Heritage] Project Director: Maureen Ambrosino Project Title: Westborough: Your Town – Your History Project Description: A day-long digitization event preserving historical documents held by community members and related to the town of Westborough, Massachusetts. The event would build on the recent discovery of a trove of documents dating to before the Revolution. Those documents and the story of their discovery and preservation would be featured in a showcase program for the public before the digitization day. The digitization event would be staffed by consultants from BiblioTemps, a service of the Massachusetts Library System; consultants would advise on copyright and digitization best practices. Following the digitization day would be the screening of a film of the event that would include a presentation by a local historian on the significance of the digitized items, as well as testimonials from members of the public about their materials. After the digitization event, the applicants would also create an online exhibit featuring the digitized items. The digitization day and subsequent programming would be timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of Westborough in 2017.
New York Council for the Humanities Outright: $200,000 [Humanities in the Public Square] Project Director: Michael Washburn Project Title: The Democratic Dialogue Project Project Description: Implementation of six town hall meetings modeling democratic dialogues, the creation of new “Reading and Discussion” modules, and “Community Conversation” toolkits on civic engagement.
Oyster Bay Historical Society Outright: $12,000 [Common Heritage] Project Director: Philip Blocklyn Project Title: Preserving Community Collections: The Oyster Bay Historical Society’s Documentation of a Congregation’s Cultural Heritage Project Description: A day-long event at the Oyster Bay Historical Society in Oyster Bay, New York, to digitize the cultural heritage collections of the Hood African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and to hold a series of three public programs: a walking tour of the 1850s church, its Pine Hollow Cemetery, and the surrounding historic district; a community roundtable on the uses of primary sources in researching family history; and a workshop on best practices in preservation. The church’s collections encompass materials such as correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, journals, diaries, genealogies, and military records that chronicle its members, who descend from free local African-Americans and from families from Virginia who relocated to Oyster Bay in the mid-20th century. The digitized materials would be made accessible on the website of the historical society and on the Long Island Memories website sponsored by the Long Island Library Resources Council. The public events aim to highlight the role of church members in the development of Oyster Bay in the 19th and 20th century and their participation in a broader national historical narrative through military service in the American Civil War. The project would create new and extend existing connections within the Oyster Bay community.
Historic Hudson Valley Outright: $100,000 [Digital Projects for the Public: Prototyping Grants] Project Director: Ross Higgins Project Title: Slavery in the North Website Project Project Description: The prototyping phase of a website on the exploration of the history of slavery in the north during the colonial period
Trustees of Davidson College Outright: $11,825 [Common Heritage] Project Director: Jan Blodgett Project Title: History Homecoming Day: Digitizing the Gaps in the Diverse History of a Small College Town Project Description: A digitization event designed to document community history in Davidson, North Carolina, particularly that related to the African American community which is underrepresented in local area archives. During the digitization event, screenings of the documentary short film Always Part of the Fabric, illustrating the role African Americans played at Davidson College from its inception, would be offered, followed by community discussion with Davidson faculty. In addition, walking tours of community neighborhoods, an interactive online map, and presentations at programs sponsored by the Davidson Historical Society and Davidson Parks & Recreations would explore local African American history.
Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation Match: $280,000 [Challenge Grants] Project Director: Siobhan Reardon Project Title: Free Library of Philadelphia Community Humanities Endowment Project Description: A Community Humanities Endowment to engage grassroots Philadelphia community partners in collaborative projects and a modest amount for fundraising activities.
National Constitution Center Outright: $175,000 [Humanities in the Public Square] Project Director: Jeffrey Rosen Project Title: The Second Founding: The History and Meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment Project Description: A public forum, public programs, production of podcasts, and creation of educational materials that explore the 14th Amendment’s history and its relevance today.
Humanities Texas Outright: $12,000 [Common Heritage] Project Director: Michael Gillette Project Title: East Texas History Harvest NEH Grant Offers and Awards, December 2015 Page 66 of 73 400 7th Street, S.W., 4th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20506 P 202.606.8446 http://www.neh.gov Project Description: The creation of a “community collection” of primary source documents related to the local and regional history of East Texas with free, online access to the collection via the Portal to Texas History, and an array of public programming events, developed in partnership with local educational, historical, and cultural institutions. Programming would include a traveling exhibition featuring the collected material and a regional historical documentary produced by the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. The East Texas History Harvest would be the third in a series of four pilot programs organized by the applicant.
Alexis McCrossen Outright: $42,000 [Fellowships for University Teachers] Southern Methodist University Project Title: A History of New Year’s Observances in the United States, 1800-2000 Project Description: A book-length study of the history of New Year’s observances in the United States.
Omar Valerio-Jimenez Outright: $42,000 [Awards for Faculty] University of Texas, San Antonio Project Title: The US-Mexican War (1846-1848): Mexican Americans, Memory, and Citizenship Project Description: The writing of a book on the legacy of memories about the MexicanAmerican War among successive generations.

National Endowment for the Humanities Would Be on the Chopping Block in a Ted Cruz Presidency

If elected President of the United States Ted Cruz will not only terminate the IRS, the Commerce Department, the Energy Department, and HUD, but he will also end twenty-five more programs, including the National Endowment for the Humanities.


1. Appalachian Regional Commission
2. Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative
3. Climate Research Funding for the Office of Research and Development
4. Climate Resilience Evaluation Awareness Tool
5. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
6. Corporation for Public Broadcasting (privatize)
7. Corporation for Travel Promotion
8. Global Methane Initiative
9. Green Infrastructure Program
10. Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program
11. Legal Services Corporation
12. National Endowment for the Arts
13. National Endowment for the Humanities
14. New Starts Transit Program
15. Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund
16. Presidential Election Campaign Fund
17. Regulation of CO2 Emissions from Power Plants and all Sources
18. Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Vehicles
19. Renewable Fuel Standard Federal Mandates
20. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation
21. Sugar Subsidies
22. Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery
23. UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
24. UN Population Fund
25. USDA Catfish Inspection Program

Click here for an op-ed I wrote a couple of years ago about why we need the National Endowment for the Humanities.

NEH Grants Announced

While I was in Princeton last month leading a seminar on the “13 Colonies” for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History I received an e-mail announcing the latest projects funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  

As I wrote a few weeks ago, one of the highlights of the week with the K-8 teachers taking the seminar was a tour of colonial Philadelphia with LaSalle University’s George Boudreau.  

The NEH grants were announced the day before our tour.  George arrived at Philadelphia’s Welcome Park with a big grin on his face and proudly announced that his teachers seminar on Benjamin Franklin had been funded for the summer of 2016.  Congrats to George and all the winners!

Here are some of the NEH-funded projects that the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home might find interesting:

Seminars for College Teachers
  • Olivier Zunz, Univ. of Virginia, “Exploring American Democracy, with Alexis de Tocqueville as Guide”

Seminars for School Teachers
  • Graham Hodges, Colgate Univ., “Abolitionism and the Underground Railroad”
  • Gerard Koot, Univ. of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, “The Dutch Republic and Britain: The Making of a European World Economy”

Public Scholar Program
  • Thomas Andrews, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, “Animals in the History of the United States”
  • Linda Przybyszewski, Univ. of Notre Dame, “The Unexpected Origins of Modern Religious Liberty”
  • Jason Sokol, Univ. of New Hampshire, “Shot Rings Out: How Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death Was Lived”

Landmarks of American History               
  • George Boudreau, La Salle Univ., “Benjamin Franklin and the American People”
  • Jennifer Dorsey, Siena Coll., “Religious Revival, Utopian Society, and the Shaker Experience in America”
  • Eric Rauchway, Univ. of California, Davis, “The Transcontinental Railroad: Transforming California and the Nation”
  • Stephen Robertson, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, “Graffiti Houses: The Civil War from the Perspective of Individual Soldiers”
  • Jose Torre, State Univ. of New York, Coll. at Brockport, “The Rochester Reform Trail: Women’s Rights, Religion, and Abolition on the Genesee River and the Erie Canal”

Scholarly Editions and Translations
  • Daniel Feller, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, “The Papers of Andrew Jackson: A Documentary Edition”
  • Edward Lengel, Univ. of Virginia, “The Papers of George Washington”
  • Constance Schulz, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia, “The Revolutionary Era Pinckney Statesmen of South Carolina: A Digital Documentary Edition: Phase 2”
  • J.C.A. Stagg, Univ. of Virginia, “The Papers of James Madison”
  • Harry Stout, Yale Univ., “Jonathan Edwards Center Online Initiative”

Institutes for College and University Teachers
  • Kevin Butterfield, Univ. of Oklahoma, “Westward Expansion and the Constitution in the Early American Republic”
  • Donna Ray, Graduate Center, CUNY, “The Visual Culture of the American Civil War and Its Aftermath”
  • Kurtis Schaeffer, Univ. of Virginia, “Problems of the Study of Religion”

Digital Humanities Implementation Grants
  • David Eltis, Emory Univ., “Enhancing and Sustaining http://www.slavevoyages.org”
  • Erika Lee, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities, “Immigrant Stories”

Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities
  • Sharon Leon, George Mason Univ., “Doing Digital History 2016: An Institute for Mid-Career American Historians”

Are You Applying for a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities?

If so, you have about a month to submit your application.  The deadline is April 30, 2015.


With that in mind, Chris Cameron of the African-American Intellectual History blog has provided some useful advice.  Here is a small taste:

In terms of who should write for you, it is fine to have a letter from your doctoral advisor as long as her or his expertise also covers the topic of your new project. You should have full professors or people very well known in their fields writing for you, and both of your letters should not be from people too close to you. So if your advisor is writing, don’t have someone else from your dissertation committee or a colleague at your own institution write you a letter. You also want to avoid letters from your grad school friends, unless that friend has gone on to be a full professor, endowed chair, or someone very well-known and respected in their field. If they are still a junior faculty member or recently tenured, ask someone else.

Read the entire post here.

Barack Obama Awards 2013 Humanities Medals

American Antiquarian Society

This year’s winners include David Brion Davis, Krista Tippett, Anne Firor Scott, and the American Antiquarian Society.  Here is a taste of the press release:

On Monday afternoon, July 28, 2014,  President Obama will award the 2013 National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal to distinguished recipients in the East Room. The First Lady will also attend.
The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities were established by the Congress in 1965 as independent agencies of the Federal Government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $5 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with State arts agencies, local leaders, other Federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. The National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the Nation. The Endowment brings high-quality historical and cultural experiences to large and diverse audiences in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and five territories.
At next week’s event, the President will deliver remarks and present the awards to the following individuals and organizations:
2013 National Medal of Arts
  • Julia Alvarez, Novelist, Poet, and Essayist, Weybridge, VT
  • Brooklyn Academy of Music, Presenter, Brooklyn, NY
  • Joan Harris, Arts Patron, Chicago, IL
  • Bill T. Jones, Dancer and Choreographer, Valley Cottage, NY
  • John Kander, Musical Theater Composer, New York, NY
  • Jeffrey Katzenberg, Director and CEO of DreamWorks, Beverly Hills, CA
  • Maxine Hong Kingston, Writer, Oakland, CA
  • Albert Maysles, Documentary Filmmaker, New York, NY
  • Linda Ronstadt, Musician, San Francisco, CA
  • Billie Tsien and Tod Williams (receiving individual medals), Architects, New York, NY
  • James Turrell, Visual Artist, Flagstaff, AZ
2013 National Humanities Medal
  • M.H. Abrams, Literary Critic, Ithaca, NY
  • David Brion Davis, Historian, Orange, CT
  • Darlene Clark Hine, Historian, Chicago, IL
  • Anne Firor Scott, Historian, Chapel Hill, NC
  • William Theodore De Bary, East Asian studies scholar, Tappan, NY
  • Johnpaul Jones, Architect, Bainbridge, WA
  • Stanley Nelson, Filmmaker, New York, NY
  • Diane Rehm, Radio Host, Washington, D.C.
  • Krista Tippett, Radio Host, St. Paul, MN
  • American Antiquarian Society, Historical Organization, Worcester, MA

Quote of the Day

To fail to study history and ponder deeply what it means to be human, to refuse to contemplate the human condition revealed so resplendently in great literature, and to decline to think through the sources of our religious differences and the ethical and philosophical quandaries of the day is to impoverish our potential for making good decisions for ourselves and for our country.

–Congressman Jim Leach, former Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Messiah College Humanities Symposium Speaker, and darn good high school wrestler, on the occasion of the opening of St. Ambrose College’s Middle East Institute.

Beyond the Mansion 2.0

The NEH has awarded Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and The Hermitage (home of Andrew Jackson) $300,000 to create “Beyond the Mansion 2.0,” a web project that will make archaeological research at these sites available to the public.  Here is the press release:

MONTICELLO, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—The National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced that they will provide a $300,000, three-year grant to enable archaeologists at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to complete Beyond the Mansion 2.0., an innovative, web-based collaboration with The Hermitage.
Beyond the Mansion 2.0 will make thirty years of archaeological research at The Hermitage available to scholars and the general public. The project focuses on the First Hermitage, a cluster of archaeological sites occupied around 1800 by Jackson and a small group of enslaved people.  By 1821, the site was populated by Jackson’s rapidly growing slave labor force.  Beyond the Mansion 2.0 will support digitization and analysis of the artifact assemblages and field records generated by extensive excavations. Funding will also support faunal analysis by Colonial Williamsburg’s Laboratory of Zooarchaeology and macrobotanical analysis by the Archaeological Research Laboratory at the University of Tennessee.  The digitization will utilize protocols and software developed by the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS)  and its collaborators.
“Bringing together these different kinds of archaeological information will allow us to discover how and why the use of consumer goods like stylish ceramics and the consumption of domestic and wild animals and plants varied within the enslaved community and changed over time at The Hermitage,” said Dr. Jillian Galle, the principle investigator for the new grant and project manager for DAACS. 
At the end of the project, data from Beyond the Mansion 2.0 will be available online via the DAACS website, along with data from sites at the Hermitage Mansion Backyard and the Hermitage Field Quarter. Because the First Hermitage data will conform to DAACS classification and measurement protocols, it will be seamlessly comparable to data from Monticello, previous Hermitage sites, and scores of sites in Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Jamaica, and Nevis. This will allow researchers to document and understand how the Hermitage data fit into larger patterns of spatial variation and change in the slave societies of North America and the Caribbean.
“We are very grateful to NEH and its peer reviewers for funding the Hermitage project.  This is another important step to our overall goal:  to facilitate the kind of rigorous, quantitative, and comparative analysis that will help us document and explain variation in the life ways of enslaved people in the early-modern era,” said Dr. Fraser Neiman, co-principle investigator on the new grant and director of archaeology at Monticello.
Built and maintained by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, and based in the Department of Archaeology at Monticello, the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS) is a web-based initiative providing free access to archaeological data in order to foster inter-site comparative archeological research on slavery. DAACS has received major funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, the Reed Foundation, and Monticello. For more information, visit www.daacs.org

NEH Announces Its Latest Awards

The National Endowment for the Humanities just handed out $33 million in grants for 173 humanities projects.  Here are a few that caught my eye:

  •  Preparation for online publication of a critical edition of primary source material about Native Americans in Connecticut from 1783-1869 (Yale)
  • Preparation for publication of volumes 21 and 22 of the papers of the first Federal Congress and closing the project’s work (George Washington University).
  • A five-week institute for twenty college and university faculty to explore connections between mapping and environmental knowledge in the Americas from the contact period to the twenty-first century (Newberry Library)
  • Two one-week Landmarks workshops for eighty school teachers on Abraham Lincoln and his role in American history, using sites in and near Springfield, Illinois (Southern Illinois University)
  • A three-week summer institute for twenty-five teachers on the history and culture of the French Acadian peoples of St. John Valley in northern Maine (Maine Humanities Council).
  • A series of four two-day workshops on theoretical and practical approaches for making digital humanities scholarship accessible to blind, low-vision, deaf, and hard-of-hearing users. (University of Maryland)
  • Two one-week Landmarks workshops for eighty school teachers on the development of slavery in the Chesapeake Bay region during the eighteenth century (London Town Foundation Inc.)
  • Production of a two-hour documentary film that uses the short-lived presidency of James Garfield as a lens to explore numerous political, social, cultural, and scientific issues related to the United States at the time WGBH Educational Foundation)
  • Preparation for publication of two volumes of the papers of John Adams and two volumes of his family’s correspondence (Massachusetts Historical Society)
  • Continuing development of the World Map platform, a system that allows scholars, teachers, and students to explore, visualize, edit, and publish geospatial information (Harvard University)
  • A four-week institute for thirty school teachers on the role of “The Star Spangled Banner” and other music related to civil life in American history and culture. (University of Michigan)
  • Development of a platform that would allow educators across humanities disciplines to create web-based, multiplayer historical role-playing games. (Hope College)
  • Two one-week Landmarks workshops for eighty school teachers to examine Rochester’s central role in nineteenth-century American reform history (SUNY-Brockport)
  • A two-week summer institute for thirty college and university faculty on the visual culture of the Civil War (CUNY Research Foundation)
  •  Research leading to the creation of an online digital archive, an edited collection of essays, and public presentations on African American intellectuals in Chicago, 1890-1930 (Westchester Community College)
  • Preparation for digital publication of the personal and public papers of three South Carolina statesmen: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Thomas Pinckney, and Charles Pinckney (University of South Carolina)
  • Preparation for publication of four volumes of the papers of James Madison (University of Virginia)
  • Preparation for publication of volumes 17 and 18 of the Presidential series and volumes 19-21 and 23-30 of the Revolutionary War series of papers of George Washington (University of Virginia)
  • A two-week institute for 25 historians on advanced theory and application of new media tools for teaching and scholarship (George Mason University)
  • Preparation for the publication of volumes 4, 5, and 6 of the papers of John Jay (Columbia University)
  • A two-week summer institute for twenty-five college and university teachers to explore the topic of American westward expansion in the Early Republic through the lens of the U.S. Constitution (University of Oklahoma)

Jim Leach Announces Resignation as NEH Chairman

We were glad to host him at Messiah College a few years ago.

A taste of the press release:

WASHINGTON (April 23, 2013) — Jim Leach announced today that he is leaving his post as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have become associated with an agency that plays such a critical role in humanities research and public programming,” he said. “America needs an infrastructure of ideas as well as bridges and no institution over the past half century has done more to strengthen the idea base of our democracy than the NEH. The humanities are an essential corollary to the nation’s increasing focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).”

Under Chairman Leach, the agency created a Bridging Cultures program designed to promote understanding and mutual respect for diverse groups within the United States and abroad. As part of this effort, NEH supported programs designed to expand citizen understanding of American history and values, the civil rights movement, and foreign cultures.    

In addition, the agency helped launch a National Digital Public Library to establish a unified gateway to digital collections of books, artworks, and artifacts from libraries, museums, and other cultural sites across the country. He presided over the culmination of decades-long projects such as the publication of the Autobiography of Mark Twain and the Dictionary of American Regional English
Leach is the ninth chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Prior to being named to the post in August 2009, he was a Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and Interim Director of the Institute of Politics and Lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.  From 1977 to 2007, he represented Iowa in the House of Representatives where he chaired the Banking and Financial Services Committee, the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Leach’s resignation is effective the first week in May. NEH Deputy Chairman Carole Watson will be the acting head of the endowment until a permanent replacement is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Congratulations to NEH Grant Winners

The National Endowment for the Humanities just granted $17 million to 208 worthy scholarly and public projects in the humanities.  Here are a few of the winning projects that caught my eye:

Elizabeth Beaudin of Yale is digitizing 5000 volumes of annual reports from missionary organizations that existed between 1850 and 1950.

Ashli White of the University of Miami is working on the material culture of the revolutionary Atlantic.

Thomas Caswell of the University of Florida is working on an interactive digital collection for St. Augustine, Florida.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum received a grant to apply authorship attribution to some of Lincoln’s early writings.

Darren Dochuck of Purdue won a summer stipend to continue his work on evangelicals and the oil industry.

Jason Cohen of Berea College won a grant to develop a course entitled “What is a Neighbor.”

Thomas Knoles of the American Antiquarian Society won a grant to digitize American election returns from 1788-1825.

The Missouri Historical Society won a grant to develop a traveling exhibit and publication on the American Revolution on the frontier.

Michelle McDonald of Richard Stockton College is working on a project on free produce in early America.

Timothy Shannon of Gettysburg College received a summer stipend for his project, “Indian Captive, Indian King: Peter Williamson in America and Britain.”

Casey Due Hackney of the University of Houston will be teaching a course called “Who Owns the Past.”

The Virginia Humanities Council won a grant digitize records related to the African-American experience in Virginia.