America’s cultural heritage is preserved not only in libraries, museums, archives, and other community organizations, but also in all of our homes, family histories, and life stories. The Common Heritage program aims to capture this vitally important part of our country’s heritage and preserve it for future generations. Common Heritage will support both the digitization of cultural heritage materials and the organization of outreach through community events that explore and interpret these materials as a window on the community’s history and culture.
The Common Heritage program recognizes that members of the public—in partnership with libraries, museums, archives, and historical organizations—have much to contribute to the understanding of our cultural mosaic. Together, such institutions and the public can be effective partners in the appreciation and stewardship of our common heritage.
The program supports events organized by community cultural institutions, which members of the public will be invited to attend. At these events experienced staff will digitize the community historical materials brought in by the public. Project staff will also record descriptive information—provided by community attendees—about the historical materials. Contributors will be given a free digital copy of their items to take home, along with the original materials. With the owner’s permission, digital copies of these materials would be included in the institutions’ collections. Historical photographs, artifacts, documents, family letters, art works, and audiovisual recordings are among the many items eligible for digitization and public commemoration.
Projects must also provide community outreach via public events that would expand understanding of the community’s heritage. Public programs could include lectures, panels, reading and discussion groups, special gallery tours, screening and discussion of relevant films, presentations by a historian, special initiatives for families and children, interpretation by curators about items brought in by the public, workshops on preserving heritage materials, or other activities that bring humanities perspectives on heritage materials to community audiences. These activities should provide a framework for a deeper understanding of the community members’ shared or divergent heritage. The programs may take place before, during, and/or after the day of the digitization event. Applicants may but need not include in their proposals a topic around which the event and the programs would be organized. Topics proposed for programs may also be proposed for the digitization event.
The applicant institution must plan, promote, and organize the event and ensure that a wide range of historical materials can be digitized and also contextualized through public programming. Since the help of additional institutions and organizations in the community may be needed to accomplish this work, the applicant must take responsibility for enlisting appropriate organizations or institutions, such as local libraries and museums, to contribute to the project, as needed.
NEH especially welcomes applications from small and medium-sized institutions that have not previously received NEH support.
In its first two competitions the Common Heritage program received an average of 150 applications per year. The program made 32 awards per year, for a funding ratio of 21 percent.
The number of applications to an NEH grant program can vary widely from year to year, as can the funding ratio. Information about the average number of applications and awards in recent competitions is meant only to provide historical context for the current competition. Information on the number of applications and awards in individual competitions is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions, contact the staff of NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access at email@example.com and 202-606-8570. Applicants who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact NEH via Federal Relay (TTY users) at 800-877-8399.