Humanities Endowment Announces Afghanistan Initiative, Hosts President Karzai's First Official Visit to U.S. Museum

WASHINGTON, (May 23, 2005)

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced a new agency-wide initiative, "Rediscovering Afghanistan," designed to promote research, education, and public programs about Afghan history and culture. Starting in July, the NEH will invite grant applications from U.S. scholars and institutions interested in exploring the nation's cultural heritage.

NEH Chairman Bruce Cole announced the special initiative at a private gathering of political and cultural leaders, including members of America's museum community, held at the Smithsonian Institution in honor of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. His tour of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery marked the President's first official visit to a U.S. museum.

"Our nations share a strong bond," said Cole at the announcement. "The tides of history have brought us together across continents and time. I am proud to stand with President Karzai in the struggle for democracy and the wisdom on which it depends."

Cole continued: "The Rediscovering Afghanistan Initiative will encourage scholars, museums, filmmakers, and archivists to promote research, education, and public programs about Afghanistan's history and culture. And it will encourage American institutions to assist their Afghan peers in efforts to preserve and document cultural resources. My hope is that this collaborative effort will educate more Americans about the beauty and power of Afghanistan's precious heritage."

Information about the application process will be available in July.

Last year, NEH awarded $25.5 million for research, education and public programs of international topics, including the preservation and documentation of the art and artifacts of Afghanistan. For example, a grant of $298,000 was awarded to New York University to create a digital library of Afghan works from 1871-1930. Other recent grants have assisted in funding the cataloguing of artifacts from the Kabul Museum.

In April 2005, NEH Deputy Chairman Lynne Munson led an NEH delegation, including Preservation Division Director Thomas Mallon and senior program officer Charles Kolb, to Kabul to meet with Afghanistan's cultural leaders, including Minister of Information and Culture Makhdoom Sayeed Raheen.

The event at the Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery was made possible by the generous contributions of The Honorable Iris Love, The Honorable William D. Rollnick, The Honorable Nancy Ellison, and the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

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