Preserving Community Assets with Support from the National Endowment for the Humanities
One of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States is the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This independent federal agency, created in 1965 is committed to awarding grants for local cultural institutions such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public televisions, radio stations and individual scholars.
Communities all over the country apply for these grants annually to strengthen institutional bases of the humanities including educational institutions to facilitate research scholarships, provide opportunities for lifelong learning and preserve and provide access to cultural and educational resources.
The NEH’s Preservation Assistance grants help small and mid-sized institutions improve their ability to preserve and care for collections related to the humanities. These community assets are often the first to lose local and state funding when budgets are tight. The grants support libraries, museums, historical societies, archival repositories, cultural organizations, town and county records offices and colleges and universities.
Awardees in the past have included organizations with special collections of books and journals, archives and manuscripts, prints and photographs, moving images, sound recordings, architectural and cartographic records, decorative and fine art objects, textiles, archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, furniture, historical objects and digital materials. In the last five competitions, this grants program received an average of 250 applications per year, and an average of 72 awards has been made each year.
Types of grant applicants have been broadened in recent years through state organizations like the New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH). For example, eight local hospitals, including AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City and Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, have participated in “Literature and Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Heath Care” since 2005. The award winning reading and discussion program, directed by the NJCH, aims to improve communication skills, increase empathy for patients and promote job satisfaction. The NJCH has become an important partner in a community’s application for funding having a 40+ year track record in promoting the State’s diversity; appreciating that there are no easy answers and finding joy and understanding in the humanities.
When assessing the preservation needs of libraries, museums or archival holdings, applicants must seek a consultant specifically knowledgeable about the preservation of these types of collections. Applicants who have never applied before are strongly encouraged to assess the opportunities at the NEH.