NEH and U.K. Arts and Humanities Research Council Announce Grants to Support Digital Innovation

Eight NEH/AHRC New Directions for Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions grants will advance digital tools and methods used by museums, libraries, and archives to bring the humanities to global audiences

NEH AHRC grants graphic
(December 16, 2020)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is proud to join the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in announcing the recipients of the first round of NEH/AHRC New Directions for Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions grants.

Eight grants will support teams of international researchers in developing new methods of sharing culture and heritage with global audiences, opening new research frontiers, and advancing collections-based research methods for the twenty-first century.

Among the first projects to receive funding are an effort by researchers at the University of Indiana and the University of Cambridge to develop digital methods for identifying and analyzing watermarks on manuscripts by Isaac Newton, and a collaboration between the University of Illinois and City, University of London to use artificial intelligence to enhance access to archival music collections at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers UniversityNewark and the Scottish Jazz Archive.

“The United States and the United Kingdom share a common cultural heritage and a commitment to opening new avenues of humanities research through technological means,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “NEH is pleased to partner with AHRC to support scholars at some of the world’s finest cultural institutions in developing innovative techniques and strategies to share their rich collections and expand our understanding of their contents.”

Designed to advance digital scholarship in cultural institutions such as museums, libraries, and archives, the newly created NEH/AHRC New Directions for Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions grant program is a joint initiative between NEH and the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), a component body of U.K. Research and Innovation (UKRI). Bilateral teams of researchers and cultural institution professionals from both U.S. and U.K. institutions will receive $1.1 million in NEH funding, and an additional £1.4 million from AHRC for collaborative research projects.

The role of digital innovation in transforming access to, and understandings of, culture and heritage has never been more important,” said Arts and Humanities Research Council Executive Chair Christopher Smith. “In bringing together research expertise across renowned cultural institutions in the U.K. and U.S., these projects promise to achieve new standards in digital scholarship, opening-up our world-leading collections to new audiences and pioneering the research techniques of tomorrow. I am delighted that the AHRC and NEH are co-funding such an important, timely and exciting group of projects.”

Below are the U.S. recipients of the newly awarded NEH/AHRC New Directions for Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions grants:

  • University of Southern California 
    Outright: $149,650
    Project Director: Deborah Holmes-Wong; Yao-Yi Chiang (co-project director)
    Project Title: Machines Reading Maps: Finding and Understanding Text on Maps
    Project Description: The development of a workflow that would use advanced machine learning and annotation tools to extract and annotate text on maps across large historic map collections. The U.K. partner is the Alan Turing Institute.

  • University of Illinois
    Outright: $149,031
    Project Director: Gabriel Solis; Adriana Cuervo (co-project director)
    Project Title: New Directions in Digital Jazz Studies: Music Information Retrieval and AI Support for Jazz Scholarship in Digital Archives
    Project Description: The development of artificial intelligence and music information retrieval tools and archival workflows to enhance access to archival jazz collections, including those held by the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University
    Newark and the Scottish Jazz Archive. The U.K. partner is City, University of London.
  • University of Illinois
    Outright: $49,820
    Project Director: Glen Worthey
    Project Title: AEOLIAN (Artificial intelligence for cultural organizations)
    Project Description: A series of meetings and case studies that will bring together a team of experts to develop new approaches to improving access to and use of digital archives that are currently private. The U.K. partner is Loughborough University.

  • Indiana University
    Outright: $149,954
    Project Director: William Newman; Joel Klein (co-project director); James Voelkel (co-project director)
    Project Title: Digital approaches to the capture and analysis of watermarks using the manuscripts of Isaac Newton as a test case
    Project Description: A research project on identifying and analyzing watermarks in digitized collections using watermarks found in Isaac Newton's manuscripts as a case study. The U.K. partner is the University of Cambridge.

  • Southern University at New Orleans
    Outright: $149,887
    Project Director: Haitham Eid
    Project Title: 3 by 3: Modeling New Digital Leadership in Museums
    Project Description: A collaborative research project on digital adoption and transformation in museums that will also produce professional development resources on digital leadership for the cultural heritage field. The U.K. partner is the University of Leicester.

  • American Numismatic Society
    Outright: $150,000
    Project Director: Peter van Alfen; Ethan Gruber (co-project director)
    Project Title: OXUS-INDUS: A Linked Open Data Resource for Research in Central and South Asian Coinages
    Project Description: Applying linked open data (LOD) approaches to creating a tool for better studying and understanding of the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coinage of Central and South Asia (c. 250 BCE to the beginning of the first century CE). The U.K. partner is Oxford University.

  • Hispanic Society of America
    Outright: $149,785
    Project Director: Marcus Burke
    Project Title: From Lima to Canton and Beyond: An AI-aided heritage materials research platform for studying globalization through art
    Project Description: Applying and refining spectral imaging methods to determine the geographic origins of cultural heritage materials, with a broader goal of illuminating historic patterns of global trade and cultural exchange. The U.K. partner is Nottingham Trent University.

  • University of Texas, Austin
    Outright: $149,915
    Project Director: Kelly McDonough
    Project Title: Unlocking the Colonial Archive: Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for Indigenous and Spanish American Historical Collections
    Project Description: The transformation of Indigenous and Spanish colonial archives into readable and accessible data using artificial intelligence technologies, including transcribed texts, linked information, and automated search and analysis of pictorial elements. The U.K. partner is Lancaster University.


National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at


UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of U.K. Research and Innovation, funds internationally outstanding independent researchers across the whole range of the arts and humanities: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages and literature, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. The quality and range of research supported by AHRC works for the good of U.K. society and culture and contributes both to U.K. economic success and to the culture and welfare of societies across the globe. Additional information about AHRC is available at

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