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Interpreting America's Historic Places

Places where history was made have a special power to connect us to the past and to impress upon us more deeply the lessons of history. NEH invites proposals for public programs that exploit the evocative power of historic places to address themes and issues central to American history. Projects may interpret a single historic site, a series of sites, an entire neighborhood, a town or community, or a larger geographical region. Whatever its size, the place must convey its historical importance to visitors.

Project formats might include interpretive driving or walking tours, visitor orientation exhibits, interpretive displays and labeling, revised tour scripts, video or audio displays, onsite interactive media, or digital products. Ancillary public programs—such as lecture series, hands-on workshops, radio or television programs—are also eligible for support.

Applicants are encouraged to develop projects that include partners outside the traditional history community, such as heritage tourism or economic development agencies, community and other non-profit organizations, and agencies of local, state or tribal governments. While innovative partnerships are welcome, such organizations should apply in collaboration with at least one partner that has experience in developing and implementing humanities programs.

Examples

To celebrate a state’s diverse musical traditions, a state-wide commission created a Musical Heritage Trail that marks important sites in blues, bluegrass, and jazz history across the state. The trail included more than 150 historic markers and interpretive sites. Each marker was developed by a team of scholars and artists. The markers offer photographs, song clips, and detailed historical information about the state’s music history. Additionally, the commission staged public ceremonies to dedicate new markers that enabled the public to discuss the state’s musical history with scholars and musicians.

The historic home of a free black in the antebellum South reconceptualized its site interpretation through a new visitor’s center, docent-led tours, and website. The new approach situated the house’s owner and his life within a context provided by broader social and political history. In addition, a small traveling exhibition concerning free blacks in the South was created, to reach venues across six states. The website was enhanced to include virtual tours and significant historical background on the house and grounds.

A state historical agency coordinated efforts to link historic sites together in order to explore common themes and ideas on the occasion of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. During the sesquicentennial year, sites will be linked statewide via a website that offers information on programs at the individual sites, suggestions for driving tours, and additional content that helps contextualize the sites as they relate to larger historical events. Additionally, the website will offer downloadable tours through six different regions of the state.

Please note that applicants proposing Interpreting America’s Historic Places projects must apply to the America’s Historical and Cultural Organizations program, for either a planning grant or an implementation grant.