NEH in the News
The Daily Pennsylvanian, the University of Pennsylvania’s student newspaper, Olivia Sylvester reports on the programs and initiatives at the university that would be threatened by the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. The use of NEH and NEA funding to support higher education initiatives is not unique to the University of Pennsylvania; in March 2016, the NEH provided funding to universities in 45 states and Washington, D.C.
Since 1977, University of Pennsylvanua professors, researchers, and librarians have received more than $23 million, including $50,400 in 2016. According to Penn Humanities Forum director and English professor Jim English, NEH grants support “fairly long-term, multi-year, [and] not very glamorous projects” that would not attract the same kind of private funding.
Those of us who work in museums and history organizations commonly hear “if only.”
“If only I’d interviewed my grandfather about his World War II experiences.” “If only I’d saved those letters written by my great-grandmother.” “If only that cemetery had been preserved.” Once these stories and places are lost, they are gone forever. However, there are organizations working to protect our past so that we can better understand the present.
This May, the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) and the Museums of Historic Hopkinsville-Christian County are co-sponsoring an event to digitize letters, diaries, photographs and artifacts related to Christian County’s African American and Jewish history. In addition to sparking conversations about race relations, this project will help both institutions tell a broader story.
This project is happening thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an independent federal agency that supports history, literacy and civic engagement projects across the United States.
Although NEH funds have preserved our state history and positively affected the education of many Kentuckians, there are now plans to eliminate funding for the NEH and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which also aids museums, libraries and local history organizations.
Between 2008 and 2012, Kentucky institutions received $5.9 million in NEH grants. These grants funded teacher training, traveling exhibits, school programs, adult educational services, digital humanities projects and more. From 2014-2016, four Kentucky museums received $226,000 in NEH funds.
As an example of how important these funds can be, one past NEH grant was used to assess artifacts at the Frazier History Museum in Louisville. For museums, accessible collections provide better on-site experiences, leading to more visitation, greater tourism and, ultimately, a stronger economic impact. NEH funds help make that possible
Here in Alabama we care deeply about our heritage. We celebrate our culture, and we know that to be worthy of our future we must honor the best of our past. This is why it troubles us that the National Endowment for the Humanities has been slated for elimination.
The NEH, which supports museums, archives, libraries, colleges, and universities, favors projects that reach the widest possible public for widest possible impact. For example, NEH funding has supported scholars across the country in putting presidential papers on-line. Thanks to NEH, educators here in Mobile and throughout Alabama can share with our students material that was once packed away in dusty boxes, accessible only to experts.
In addition to preserving our American heritage, the NEH helps expand our knowledge of regions of the world vital to U.S. interests. For example, University of South Alabama scholars with the Center for the Study of War and Memory have asked the NEH to fund a project to translate and publish key documents of Russian military history that give Americans and policy makers critical context for understanding Russian military thinking today.
Some have asked, “Why should the American people pay for the NEH?” We would answer that we have a duty to the past to preserve our heritage and a duty to the future to teach our children about our history and culture. Moreover, it is in our interest today to understand other world cultures in order to make informed global policy decisions.
Trump's blueprint includes sweeping cuts to several departments, including the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the total elimination of 19 independent agencies including the the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Director Nheena Ittner from the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum: “We need to voice our opinions,” Ittner said. “You can’t complain about something you didn’t fight for. We need to fight for the things we believe in.”
President Donald Trump's recent budget proposal calls for sweeping cuts in most non-defense or homeland security-related departments or agencies, which could pose serious challenges for Ohio's colleges and universities.
With so much at stake, professors and administrators have been working to advocate against these potential budget cuts.
Religious Studies professor Steven Weitzman recently co-wrote a faculty signed by 191 Penn faculty from various departments. He said that the loss in funding would be a “real blow to the humanities at Penn and to the larger community that Penn serves.”
George Santayana said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
But Mansfield High School senior Ian Kavanaugh and three fellow students are learning that mastering the lessons of the past can sometimes reap rewards. Kavanagh, president of the school's history club, took second place in the Massachusetts History Day competition recently, earning the right to compete in the national finals next month in Maryland.
This is the second time a Mansfield High student has reached the National History Day finals. More than 600,000 students from around the world participated in this year's contest based on the theme "Taking a Stand in History." All four Mansfield students delivered on that theme through a documentary film, performance and original website describing the impact of historical figures who stood their ground in war and peace.
The national competition will take place June 11-15 at the University of Maryland in College Park. First-place entries in the junior and senior division's five categories of documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, and website are given the title, "National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar" and receive a $1,000 award.
Mulvane Art Museum exhibit about African American life and the civil rights movement is partially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and will run until May 21.
Longtime historian and photographer Douglas Butler took a full house of local Civil War buffs alongside his journey to document all 109 Civil War Monuments in the state of North Carolina.
Butler, who started trekking across the state part-time to photograph, published the photographs that provide stunning details of the standing tributes, in a book titled, “North Carolina Civil War Monuments: An Illustrated History.”
Alongside the pictures are records, stories and historical notes that tell the stories of the 111 Confederate and eight Union pieces scattered across the Tar Heel State.
The program, hosted by the Genealogical Society of Rockingham and Stokes Counties, was put together through funds provided by the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit agency that is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Henry David Thoreau, the author and transcendental thinker, was briefly jailed in 1846 because he wouldn't pay his taxes — he didn't like the fact that the government was tolerating slavery and waging a war with Mexico — and he later argued (in vain) for the right of refusal: "If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible."
Thoreau would sure hate Trump's budget. I even wonder whether Mulvaney's coal miners will be happy with a budget that ratchets up the State's capacity to commit violence — at the expense of the social programs that they actually need.