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NEH Announces “Protecting our Cultural Heritage”

Agency encourages projects that document or digitally re-create imperiled or destroyed cultural materials

Temple of Bel, Palmyra

The Temple of Bel, dating from 32 AD, from the archaeological site at Palmyra in Syria. The temple and other ancient monuments at Palmyra were destroyed in 2015.


Wikimedia Commons

mural painting, dome, Gelati Monastery, Georgia

Mural painting from the Church of Virgin Mary the Blessed at the medieval Gelati Monastery in western Georgia. Founded in 1106 the Gelati Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Wikimedia Commons

adobe wall panel, Chan Chan, Peru

Carved adobe wall panel from the archaeological site of Chan Chan in northern Peru, which was the largest Pre-Columbian city in South America. The ancient structures at Chan Chan are threatened by erosion due to heavy rains and wind.


Wikimedia Commons

Vessel bearer statuette, Diyala Project

The "vessel bearer," recovered from the Diyala River Basin in Iraq, was digitially documented through an NEH grant to the University of Chicago's Diyala Project, the largest single online collection of excavated artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia. 


University of Chicago

Tell Asmar documentation, Diyala Project

Documentation of objects excavated at the archaeological site of Tell Asmar in Iraq was supported by an NEH grant to the Diyala Project.


University of Chicago

Portobelo-San Lorenzo fortifications, Panama

The Portobelo-San Lorenzo military fortifications on the Caribbean coast of Panama were built in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Spanish Empire to protect transatlantic trade. The ruins have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON (March 9, 2016) —Across the globe, humanity’s cultural legacy is under threat from war, looting, natural disasters, economic development, tourism, or poor management. In response, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is putting out a call for projects that contribute to the study, documentation, or digital reconstruction of cultural heritage materials that are at risk or have been lost.

“The recent targeted destruction of so many important cultural sites in the Middle East and Africa underscores the urgency of protecting the global cultural heritage to which we all belong,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “Through this special encouragement, NEH is encouraging efforts that will stem the loss of millennia of human history and knowledge.” 

Through “Protecting our Cultural Heritage” NEH invites applications for projects that undertake virtual and 3D reconstructions of works of art, monuments, sites, or landscapes; training for cultural heritage specialists in risk assessment and preservation approaches; or data-sharing and knowledge exchange about cultural heritage sites.

Further details of the encouragement are available on NEH’s website, here, and in the agency’s grant program guidelines. Interested applicants should consult with program officers in the Divisions of Education, Preservation and Access, Public Programs, Research, and the Office of Digital Humanities to determine which NEH program would be appropriate for their proposed project.

This encouragement is part of the Endowment’s continued focus on safeguarding cultural heritage. On December 11-12, 2015, NEH sponsored a summit that brought representatives of 19 international groups involved in protecting heritage materials in Syria and other zones of conflict to Washington, D.C., to identify ways to collaborate and maximize their efforts.

The two-day conference, titled Seeking Collaboration: A Summit for Projects Collecting Cultural Heritage Data in Syria and Conflict Zones, was co-organized by the American Schools of Oriental Research and the Archaeological Institute of America and held at the headquarters of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Geographic Society.

Watch video of presentations by the 19 international groups working to preserve historical and archaeological materials in Syria and other conflict zones.

As a result of the meeting, participants agreed on a set of principles of collaboration intended to facilitate sharing of information, resources, and expertise to allow for more effective, coordinated preservation efforts and to set goals for future cooperation.

These initiatives build upon NEH’s long-standing commitment to preserving historical and heritage materials and responding to threats to cultural resources. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, NEH provided over $2 million in emergency grants for the salvage and recovery of historical documents, artwork, and archival and museum collections in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. Between 2004 and 2008, NEH awarded nearly $2 million to preserve and document Afghan cultural heritage and provide training in preservation methods to Afghan museum and library staff, and another $1.5 million for training programs and preservation and documentation of archaeological sites and collections in Iraq.

The agency also supports training for cultural heritage professionals in emergency preparedness and response, and provides grant funding for projects to preserve and make accessible collections of art and archaeological remains, manuscripts, and artifacts. For example, NEH grant support for the CORONA Atlas of the Middle East has allowed researchers to mine declassified satellite images from the 1960s and 70s for important information about archaeological sites in the Middle East prior to recent industrialization and urban expansion. NEH is also a funder of the Giza Project, a collaborative international initiative to collect, preserve, and digitally present all archaeological records from the ancient Egyptian Giza Pyramids and great Sphinx. 

Read more about NEH-funded projects that have helped preserve the cultural heritage of the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean.


About the 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:

Media Contacts: Paula Wasley at (202) 606-8424 or