WASHINGTON, May 10 – William R. Ferris, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), today announced an NEH initiative that will lead to the creation of 10 regional humanities centers throughout the United States. Each center will focus on the study of a region's history, people and cultures. NEH invites proposals to plan the creation of the centers.
"People everywhere define themselves through the places where they live or where they grew up. This 'sense of place' shapes each of us in deep and lasting ways," said Chairman Ferris. "Our regional culture, regional memory and regional identity are defined by history, language, landscape and architecture—that is, by the things we know as the humanities. The regional humanities centers will serve as reservoirs for a region's cultural heritage, gathering places for shared learning and springboards for new research."
Through the Initiative for Regional Humanities Centers, NEH seeks to encourage the exploration of regional history and culture, including the symbolic and physical environment. The centers will serve as hubs for supporting research on regional topics; for documenting and preserving regional history and cultural resources; for developing K-12, undergraduate and master's level educational programs; for designing public programs; and for developing resources for cultural heritage tourism. Crucial to each center's work will be effective collaboration with state humanities councils and with the variety of cultural and education institutions within its region, such as two- and four-year colleges and universities, radio and television stations, conservation centers and preservation service organizations, museums, libraries and historical organizations. The centers will develop new programs and resources but will also complement and coordinate – rather than replace – the work of existing educational and cultural institutions.
Through public/private partnerships, the Endowment anticipates making planning awards to up to two institutions in each region. The 10 regions, formulated in consultation with regional specialists, are the Pacific, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, Plains, Upper Mississippi Valley, Central, Deep South, South Atlantic, Mid- Atlantic and New England. The states have been grouped as a way to channel resources rather than to draw rigid boundaries between regions.
One million dollars is available for grants during the planning phase. The deadline for submitting planning-grant applications is July 16, 1999. Application materials are available elsewhere on this website.
Any U.S. nonprofit, tax-exempt institution is eligible to apply to plan for one of the regional centers. Each applicant institution must be located within the boundaries of the region it proposes to serve. Applications for planning grants will be assessed by panels of experts from outside the NEH. Requests for planning grants will be evaluated on the basis of the applicant's demonstrated understanding of the region's cultures and on the cogency of the institution's description of the steps it will take, during the grant year, to plan for the creation of a regional humanities center. Planning grant recipients will be eligible to apply for implementation grants in the subsequent phase of the initiative. NEH anticipates awarding an implementation grant to one institution in each of the 10 regions. Implementation grants will be awarded on a three-to-one matching basis.
"In a world where the 'sense of place' is being displaced these days, we need educational and cultural anchors. By providing new resources for Americans to take stock of their heritage, the centers will hold enormous potential for reinvigorating a shared sense of community and civic life. As they broaden public awareness of, access to and participation in the humanities, the centers also will vividly demonstrate that the humanities belong to everyone," Chairman Ferris said.