Public Humanities Projects grants support projects that bring the ideas and insights of the humanities to life for general audiences. Projects must engage humanities scholarship to illuminate significant themes in disciplines such as history, literature, ethics, and art, or to address challenging issues in contemporary life. NEH encourages projects that involve members of the public in collaboration with humanities scholars or that invite contributions from the community in the development and delivery of humanities programming.
This grant program supports a variety of forms of audience engagement. Applications should follow the parameters set out below for one of the following three formats:
- Humanities Discussions - This format supports three-month-long to two-year-long series of at least fifteen in person public programs that engage audiences with significant humanities resources, such as historic artifacts, artworks, literature, musical compositions, or films.
- Exhibitions - This format supports permanent exhibitions that will be on view for at least three years and single-site temporary exhibitions that will be open to the public for at least two months, or traveling exhibitions that will be available to public audiences in at least two venues in the United States (including the originating location).
- Historic Places - This format supports the interpretation of historic sites, houses, neighborhoods, and regions, which might include living history presentations, guided tours, exhibitions, and public programs.
NEH encourages projects that explore humanities ideas through multiple formats. Proposed projects may include complementary components that deepen an audience's understanding of a subject: for example, a museum exhibition might be accompanied by a website, mobile app, or discussion programs. Your application must identify one primary format for your project and follow the application instructions for that format.
Humanities projects mean projects that seek to understand and explain the significance of what people have thought, done, and achieved, both in the past and in our time. Humanities fields explore topics like these: the philosophy, literature, art, and music that people create; the battles that they fight; the polities and societies in which they live; the social forces that unite and divide them; the work that they do; and the religions in which they believe.
All projects must:
- be grounded in sound humanities scholarship
- offer an analytical perspective on the themes and ideas that underlie it in order to deepen public understanding of the humanities
- involve humanities scholars who contribute to all phases of the project
- attract a broad public audience or target a particular group underserved by the humanities
- offer engaging content approached through an appropriate variety of perspectives
- encourage dialogue and the exchange of ideas
Public Humanities Projects grants may be used for:
- meetings with scholars and other content advisers, program partners, and audience representatives
- research into the topic
- travel to archives, collections, sites, or other resources
- development and production of program or discussion guides, exhibition labels, brochures, digital assets, publications, or other interpretive material
- design of any of the interpretive formats to be used
- planning and presentation of public programs and publicity materials
- evaluation of the project's impact
- planning and conducting project-specific training for docents, discussion coordinators, or other interpretive leaders
- development and production of curriculum guides and other materials for teachers and students
- exhibition design and fabrication, as well as crating and shipping
- conservation treatments of objects, not exceeding 15 percent of the request to NEH
- development and construction of interactive program components
- publication costs for complementary materials, including catalogs and curriculum guides
- publicity expenses
There are two levels of funding for Exhibitions and Historic Places: planning and implementation. For Humanities Discussions, there is only one level of funding: implementation.
- Planning grants are used to refine the content, format, and interpretive approach of a humanities project; develop the project's preliminary design; test project components; and conduct an evaluation of the project's likely impact.
- Implementation grants are for projects that are in the final stages of preparation to go live” before the public. Grants support final scholarly research and consultation, design, production, and installation of a project for presentation to the public.
Additional opportunities for Implementation applicants
Chairman's Special Awards: Applicants with ambitious Implementation projects of exceptional significance and impact may apply for a Chairman's Special Award of up to $1 million. These projects must show the promise of addressing important humanities ideas in new ways, and must be likely to reach very large national audiences. Successful proposals typically feature collaboration between multiple partners and a broad combination of diverse formats. Chairman's Special Awards are rare: NEH typically awards no more than one Chairman's Special Award per year.
Positions in Public Humanities: Positions in Public Humanities provide full-time employment opportunities for recent graduates with an MA or PhD in the humanities and are intended to invigorate the interpretation of the humanities in a wide variety of cultural organizations. Organizations applying for an Implementation award in Exhibitions and Historic Places may request additional funds for a Position in Public Humanities. Planning applicants and Humanities Discussion applicants are not eligible to apply.