The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced an expansion of its grant offerings for museums, libraries, and other cultural organizations to bolster these institutions’ ability to facilitate public conversations about issues vital to communities, culture, and society.
NEH’s new Public Humanities Projects grants support a wide range of projects that bring the ideas and insights of the humanities to life for general audiences. The grant program goes beyond the traditional large-scale museum exhibition to also include grant support for smaller public programs, projects that engage citizens with historic U.S. sites, and work in communities to spur important public dialogue about the humanities.
“Over the 50 years that NEH has been in existence, we’ve given 6,200 grants to museums all over the country, totaling $750 million for about 2,600 museum exhibitions,” NEH Chairman William D. Adams said, in a September 2015 interview with Museum magazine. “The museum as a cloistered place is breaking down into the museum as a community-embedded institution. I think museums are much more public-facing entities.”
The new grant program responds to shifts in the field where —thanks to the evolution of digital technologies and changing relationships between institutions and their audiences—cultural spaces are increasingly interactive and integrated into the public life of their communities.
“The role of the museum is being reimagined from within and without, amounting to an epic shift in expectations,” said Karen Mittelman, Director of NEH’s Division of Public Programs, on the changes to NEH’s grant guidelines. “The cultural institutions that NEH supports are increasingly called upon to serve as ‘town halls,’ spaces where citizens can come together to talk and debate issues of significance to their communities.”
This new Public Humanities Projects grant opportunity is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ agency-wide initiative The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, which seeks to demonstrate and enhance the role and significance of the humanities and humanities scholarship in civic life.
The grant program supports the planning and implementation of public humanities projects in three areas:
- Community Conversations Grants support one- to three-year-long series of community-wide discussion projects that engage diverse residents in creatively addressing contemporary challenges, guided by the perspectives of the humanities.
- Exhibitions Grants support permanent exhibitions that will be on view for at least three years, or traveling exhibitions that will be available to public audiences in at least two venues in the United States.
- Historic Places Grants support the interpretation of historic sites, houses, neighborhoods, and regions. Projects might involve living history presentations, guided tours, exhibitions, and public programs.
NEH is also supporting the training of the next generation of museum professionals through an initiative, Positions in Public Humanities. The program offers an extra $60,000 over two years to museum grantees to allow a recent Masters or Ph.D. graduate to work on their NEH-funded project. All three grant categories also offer funding support for the two-year Public Humanities Fellow position.
Sign-up for a webinar on 7/12 from 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM EDT about the new Public Humanities Projects Grant Program with a focus on the Community Conversations format. Q&A will follow a brief presentation from two NEH Sr. Program Officers.