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NEH Announces $28.4 Million for 239 Humanities Projects Nationwide

Grant awards support the preservation of historic collections, humanities documentaries and exhibitions, scholarly books and research, and educational opportunities for teachers.

August 17, 2021

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced $28.4 million in grants for 239 humanities projects across the country. These grants will support a documentary about the 1873 Colfax Massacre, the bloodiest instance of racial violence during Reconstruction, and the development of Archaeorover, an autonomous robot that uses ground-penetrating radar to search for buried sites, structures, and artifacts of historical and archaeological significance, and other humanities projects.

This round of funding will support vital research, education, preservation, digital, and public programs. These peer-reviewed grants were awarded in addition to $53.2 million in annual operating support provided to the national network of state and jurisdictional humanities councils.

“The grants announced today demonstrate the resilience and breadth of our nation’s humanities institutions and practitioners,” said NEH’s Acting Chairman Adam Wolfson. “From education programs that will enrich teaching in college and high school classrooms to multi-institutional research initiatives, these excellent projects will advance the teaching, preservation, and understanding of history and culture.”

Several newly funded projects focus on the intersection of the humanities and technology, such as an international collaboration examining how the humanities can contribute to creating ethical, human-centered artificial intelligence systems, and the development of a digital catalogue of the works of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Other grants will enable the creation of a web application to facilitate research on digitized ancient manuscripts from St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt, the world’s oldest continually operating library, and support a lecture series and public programs on the role of photography in civic participation from 1893 to the advent of smartphones, examining how images of events such as the Great Depression, Vietnam War, civil rights movement, and 9/11 have shaped our national narrative.

Through new awards for scholarly editions and translations, NEH continues its support for several longstanding NEH-funded editorial projects that inform our understanding of history, such as the Papers of James Madison, the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project, and the Music of the United States of America (MUSA) series. Notable scholarly translation projects include a new translation of Sioux literature, an annotated translation of classical Chinese commentaries on Confucius’s chronicles of court history, and the first comprehensive, freely available edition of all extant Greek and Latin inscribed legislation from classical Rome.

Grants awarded today will also make possible a new American Masters documentary on the extraordinary life of pianist, jazz entertainer, activist, and African-American film and media pioneer Hazel Scott, and support production of a new season of Subtitle, a podcast on language and linguistics. Additional funding will help underwrite the exhibition Holbein: Capturing Character at New York’s Morgan Library & Museum on the portraiture of Northern Renaissance artist Hans Holbein the Younger, and assist reinterpretation of colonial Old North Church in Boston and its congregation’s ties to slavery from the American Revolution to the Civil War.

Twenty-five new NEH Public Scholar grants, which support popular nonfiction books in the humanities, will enable publication of: an account of the four-month 1916 Senate confirmation battle over the appointment of Justice Louis D. Brandeis to the Supreme Court; the first biography of neuroscientist and writer Oliver Sacks; a book on the making and legacy of the iconic 1950 film Sunset Boulevard; and a narrative history of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, from its founding in 1741 as a Moravian utopia through its rise as the world’s most important steel town, to its emergence as a postindustrial casino center, with special attention to how the city’s social and economic evolution reflects the wider American experience.

Several projects receiving grants today will help preserve fragile historical and cultural collections and make them more accessible to the broader public, such as grants to safeguard the Providence Atheneum’s collection of rare books, pamphlets, and artwork—which includes rare first editions of works by Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, and Herman Melville, nineteenth-century antislavery and temperance pamphlets, and a 25-volume reference work on Egypt commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte. A grant to the Oneida Indian Nation will help preserve tribal archives containing textiles, artifacts, and historical records documenting the Nation’s history, including the personal papers of Chief William Rockwell, who played a pivotal role in a U.S. Supreme Court case preserving the Oneida Reservation, and the pipe of Chief Skenondoa, an American Revolutionary War hero involved in the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty recognizing Oneida sovereignty and land rights.

NEH Preservation Assistance Grants will improve preservation conditions for valuable humanities collections at seventy-one smaller museums, archives, and historical societies across the country. Among these are grants that will help preserve: a collection of 70,000 photos, newspaper clippings, political cartoons, and records from 123 years of the influential Jewish-American newspaper Forward; rare and fragile books from the personal library of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard; artifacts documenting Hawaiian hula traditions; and 250 works of art, photographs, and ephemera created in the 1930s by artists and writers in the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Arts Project to promote Key West, Florida, as a tourist destination.

Forty institutions received grants to support professional development and research opportunities for K–12 and college teachers through summer workshops and institutes on humanities topics such as: the social and cultural history of the space race on Florida’s “Space Coast;” the role of books in circulating the ideals of the American Revolution; the twelfth-century migration of Pueblo communities from Chaco Canyon, the hub of Puebloan civilization in northwestern New Mexico, to the Mesa Verde region of southwestern Colorado; the overlooked histories of ten influential African-American women who helped define American ideals from the Revolutionary Era to the early twentieth century; and accounts of the 1918 influenza pandemic in history and literature.

This round of funding also marks the addition of the Boston Public Library as a hub for the National Digital Newspaper project, expanding the reach of the Chronicling America online database of historical American newspapers to include newspapers published in Massachusetts between 1690 and 1963. Additional funding awarded in this round will support ongoing newspaper digitization work in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Montana, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

A number of newly funded projects received grant support through NEH’s A More Perfect Union initiative, designed to demonstrate and enhance the critical role the humanities play in our nation and support projects that will help Americans commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. Among these are grants to fund new episodes of the PBS series Poetry in America, a collection of essays on the architecture of the African diaspora in the United States, and preservation planning for the Digital Library of Appalachia.

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