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Common Heritage

Division of Preservation and Access

Receipt Deadline May 11, 2017 for Projects Beginning January 2018

Updated guidelines will be posted at least two months in advance of the deadline listed above.

In the meantime, please use the guidelines for the previous deadline, to get a sense of what is involved in assembling an application.

Brief Summary

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 public programming at community events that explore these materials as a window on a 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 day-long 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 present public programming that would expand knowledge of the community’s heritage. Public programs could include lectures, panels, reading and discussion, special gallery tours, screening and discussion of relevant films, presentations by a historian, special initiatives for families and children, or comments 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 wide public audiences. These public programs 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 public programming would be organized. Topics proposed for the public programming 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.

Program Statistics

In its initial competition the Common Heritage program received 201 applications and made 38 awards, for a funding ratio of 19 percent.


For questions, contact the staff of NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access at and 202-606-8570. Applicants who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact NEH via TDD at 1-866-372-2930.