Skip to main content

June 2013

the latest from Suite 603

June 17, 2013

Flag Day is June 14, commemorating the date in 1777 that the Continental Congress authorized the national flag. Image: Childe Hassam, "Allies Day, May 1917," (1917) National Gallery of Art (detail)
Humanities' secret mission: creating safe places to talk
"How can we model the behavior we seek to inspire?" State humanities councils and partnerships
It's summer. What are you reading?
Bison and more are ... on the road
"Me and Mr. McBee": NEH digitizes early grant records

*Backstory with the American History Guys has a new mobile-friendly website.
*The Arizona Humanities Council is back home at the renovated Ellis-Shackelford House.
*Adkins Arboretum launches an audio tour about nature and the Underground Railroad, supported by Maryland Humanities Council.

Humanities' secret mission: creating safe places to talk

Click on the image to hear Hasan Davis, Deputy Commissioner of Kentucky Juvenile Justice, talk about why he recreates African American historical characters for Chautauqua programs.
Click on the image to hear Hasan Davis, Deputy Commissioner of Kentucky Juvenile Justice, talk about why he recreates African American historical characters for Chautauqua programs.

Josephine Jones is the author of Sane in Pain: Create Your Pain Management Plan forthcoming soon from Rainy Day Women Press and a former Idaho Literary Fellow. She directs programs and the Colorado Center for the Book for Colorado Humanities.

The shared study of all the humanities disciplines builds bridges across aisles that have worn into chasms. "It’s the secret mission of all our programming," I told Edie Manza during Colorado Humanities' recent self-assessment and review site visit. “We create safe places for difficult conversations."

My first experience of Chautauqua in Colorado was Charles Pace portraying Malcolm X in the Five Points neighborhood of downtown Denver. After the presentation, three young men in gang regalia spoke with Charles about what Malcolm might have thought of gangs today. They wouldn’t have come to a lecture on Malcolm or a conversation about "Race in America." They came to meet the man.

Colorado Humanities hosted the Maryland Humanities Council-designed “Martin & Malcolm” conversation with Charles Pace and Bill Grimmette at the New Hope Baptist Church in Denver. At the Q & A people lined up to talk with the Civil Rights leaders, with Martin and Malcolm. This strange, seemingly anachronistic form of edutainment gives ... read more >>

"How can we model the behavior we seek to inspire?" State humanities councils and partnerships

Image from the Minnesota Humanities Center
Image from the Minnesota Humanities Center

A series based on the Federation of State Humanities Councils' 2013 conference theme of inclusion. This series surveys the challenges the 56 councils face as they confront such issues as geography, educational and cultural resources, audiences, and philanthropy in their work. Previous articles in this series are available online.

One of the ways councils expand their spheres of inclusion is through partnerships with public and private institutions and organizations. The humanities councils in Massachusetts, Missouri, Indiana, Hawaii , Virginia, Idaho, and Arkansas serve as examples of what partnerships can help councils achieve. As David Tebaldi, executive director of Mass Humanities, notes, “A small organization with an ambitious statewide agenda needs friends.”

Councils around the country work with colleges and universities, school districts, social service agencies, and businesses. The Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities' Motheread/Fatheread program is the only family education program of the Hawai‘i Paroling Authority and the Vermont Humanities Council’s “Connections” program brings reading and discussion to underserved adults, some of whom are incarcerated. The Kansas Humanities Council and the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum conducted interviews with Boeing machinists, engineers, and office staff, as well as Wichita community members and city officials, on the eve of the plant's departure from the city. The Minnesota Humanities Center partners with the Minnesota Legacy Councils of Color. Indiana Humanities partnered with the host committee for the 2012 Super Bowl. With its “Constitutionally ... read more >>

It's summer. What are you reading?

Summertime, vacations, the beach, travel, long amounts of time spent in airplanes and airports, visions of lying in hammocks with breezes wafting by.

The question inevitably comes up: what are you reading? Here at FedState, we're curious too. We've taken stock of what we're reading, and then we asked colleagues here at NEH and around the councils what's on their lists. Humanities Texas did the same. Here's their list and below is ours. Read away!

Nancy Conner, Indiana Humanities, is listening to A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter, a classic of Indiana literature, in her car on CDs. Indiana Humanities’ Novel Conversations program lends sets of books, many with copies in large print and/or audio CD format, to book clubs statewide.

Ken Egan, Humanities Montana: I’m rereading Andrew Garcia’s Tough Trip Through Paradise, Montana, 1878, a picaresque memoir about living in Montana Territory in the aftermath of the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Nez Perce travail. Garcia’s prose weirdly combines 20s jazz speak, western lingo, and hellfire-and-brimstone rhetoric. It’s an entertaining, moving inside account of the conflict produced by U.S. settlement of the region. I’m revisiting it for pleasure and because the 150th anniversary of Montana Territory takes place in 2014.

Meg Ferris, NEH/FedState: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell with six varying story lines that are all somehow connected. Following that,The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.

Edie Manza, NEH/FedState: Iowa Sky is Don Gibson's memoir edited by his wife Dai Sil Kim-Gibson. I bought it out of loyalty and am reading it out of respect for Don and Dai Sil. Don worked with the state humanities councils during a crucial time in their development and I knew him, of course, while he was at NEH and worked for him when he was acting chairman. I'm naturally inclined to mysteries, spy thrillers, and detective books, so I'm trying to elevate my reading habits.

Jane McNamara, New York Council for the Humanities: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright on my Kindle. Also just finished Googled by Ken Auletta, a library book.

Kathleen Mitchell, NEH/FedState: Gilgamesh in a tattered paperback. I just saw a terrific stage adaptation and had to reread my favorite ancient epic.

Jen Serventi, NEH/Digital Humanities: I just finished Robin Sloan’s wonderful and charming Dr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Some have described it as one of the first digital humanities novels. Next on my list is Allegra Goodman’s The Cookbook Collector.

Chris Sommerich, Humanities Nebraska: I'm starting the newly released The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, co-edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout and published by Knopf, Cather's original publisher. It has received a lot of national attention, as it is the first time that it has been legally allowed for her letters to be published. The more than 500 letters included cover most of her lifespan and are beautifully written, giving fresh insight into her character, her wit, and her personal life, which she carefully guarded. Cather's formative years were spent in tiny Red Cloud, Nebraska, leading to such masterpieces as My Antonia, One of Ours, and O Pioneers! Readers of The Selected Letters will come away with an entirely new appreciation for Cather as one of the literary giants of the 20th century. Jewell is in HN's Speakers Bureau.

Joel Wurl, NEH/Preservation & Access: I’m reading Gary Robert's Doc Holiday: The Life and Legend, probably for no other reason than that I’m feeling like a scoundrel. The book has been an entertaining romp through parts of the Old West and seems to be very extensively researched. This period of our nation’s history was so heavily mythologized in popular culture for so many years, readers might find it interesting to go back to the subject now and get a more nuanced perspective. I picked it up months ago at a used book store and started reading the hard copy but now have it on my Kindle because it’s too fat to lug around.

Bison and more are ... on the road

 America-s Greatest Generation," an NEH On the Road Exhibition
Marine Ricky Sorenson at the soda fountain in Anoka, MN after coming home from war. Photograph, 1945. Photo: Minneapolis Star Tribune. Collection Minnesota Historical Society. From "Our Lives, Our Stories: America’s Greatest Generation," an NEH On the Road Exhibition

Bison, baskets, civil rights, the greatest generation, carnaval, and American landscape painting can be seen in museums across the country this summer because of the "NEH on the Road" small exhibition program. Here's what you can see and when and where:

There are a number of open slots for Wild Land and, especially for the new exhibition created by the National Building Museum, House and Home, which will be available in September.

"Me and Mr. McBee": NEH digitizes early grant records

Ann Sneesby-Koch of NEH's Office of Digital Humanities is carrying out the massive project of digitizing NEH's records from its early days, almost half a century ago. Much to our delight, she is also writing about her experiences with these records.

Ann explains that the McBee KeySort system "used keywords to find and bring back information. Although searching by keyword using McBee cards was strictly limited to the predetermined and use-specific data 'slotted' on the card, the cards could be searched and sorted by inserting the sorting needle or needles through holes in a stack of aligned cards. Then by lifting the needle(s), all the cards which hadn’t been notched for a particular term or combination of terms stayed on the needle, and—voilà!—those that match the keyword combination dropped out."

She also reports on intriguing early NEH-funded projects that she's discovering.


National Endowment for the Humanities
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 603
Washington, DC 20506
202.606.8254, main number
202.606.8365, fax

Edie Manza, director [ about ]
Kathleen Mitchell, senior program officer [ about ]
Meg Ferris, program analyst [ about ]
Shirley Newman, program assistant [ about ]

directions to the National Endowment for the Humanities and Federal/State Partnership

visit to keep up with the
National Endowment for the Humanities

connect with us twitter