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About the Division of Research Programs

The Division of Research supports scholarly research that advances knowledge and understanding of the humanities. Through twelve annual funding opportunities, awards are made to scholars—individuals, collaborative teams, or institutions—working on research projects of significance to specific humanities fields and to the humanities as a whole. The projects that the division supports are as diverse as America itself: editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the history of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and the autobiography of Mark Twain.

NEH’s Fellowships program was established over 50 years ago and was the first award offered by the Endowment. Since then, approximately seven thousand books have been written by NEH fellows. In the academic world, “getting an NEH” is a shorthand for receiving an NEH Fellowship, which indicates the award’s widely respected reputation and prestige. Recognizing the specific needs of certain scholars, Awards for Faculty offer more flexible fellowships to those employed at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. Summer Stipends offer two-month awards to allow scholars to take a shorter break to pursue focused research. Public Scholar awards encourage writing books for a wide readership. Placing NEH at the forefront of innovative methods in the humanities, NEH-Mellon Fellowships for Digital Publication support projects that require digital expression and digital publication. Books resulting from all of these grants regularly earn awards and recognition. NEH-funded work has been honored with Pulitzer Prizes, Bancroft Prizes, as well as awards from academic associations across the country and accolades from reviewers in major newspapers and literature journals.

While Research Programs is the only NEH division to make awards to individuals, institutional grants are also available. Collaborative Research supports projects by teams of scholars. Scholarly Editions and Translations provides funding for time-intensive editing projects such as the Papers of George Washington, and Fellowship Programs at Independent Research Institutions provides American scholars access to unique collections at American centers for humanities research around the world.

Teachers, too, make use of NEH-supported research in their classrooms – often with the aid of the web resources and books resulting from many projects. For example, the papers of William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) and the Freedmen and Southern Society Project on the history of Emancipation are used in U.S. history classes, the papers of Albert Einstein in physics, and the literary works and letters of writers such Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, and Samuel Beckett are taught in English classes. Archaeology projects unearth artifacts used by museum curators in mounting exhibitions that teach us about life in ancient civilizations. Translations of materials in other languages bring little-known foreign works ranging from ancient Roman graffiti in Pompeii to letters of the Dakota people, and contemporary Ukrainian literature to American readers. Documentarians, artists, and producers of all sorts of fiction and nonfiction media rely on new research findings in many fields—American history, literature, music, the history of science and technology—to inform and inspire their audiences. Projects like these add to the existing store of knowledge and reach every area of the humanities.