The Rokeby Museum

The Rokeby Museum, a national historic landmark located in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, charts four generations of New England social history dating back to the late eighteenth century, by looking at a house that the Robinson family first inhabited then. Today, the house has been converted into a museum that maintains an expansive collection of the family’s belongings (from the 18th through the 20th century), including furniture, letters, books, clothing, artwork and photographs. The collection includes more than ten thousand family letters, as well as invaluable diaries and newspapers that provide a historical context for life in the house. The site has also received recognition because the house was a pivotal location on the Underground Railroad during the 1830s and 1840s.

Some of the letters mention fugitive slaves by name and provide additional detail. With support from NEH, the museum has bolstered its collection with a new exhibit, “Free & Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont.” The collection explores the lives of Simon and Jesse (two runaway slaves who worked on the property) and connects their experiences to the broader picture of what it meant to be a fugitive slave in the Northeast in the mid-nineteenth century. The permanent exhibit incorporates audio selections of Simon and Jesse’s voices in a fifteen-minute dramatization, as well as extensive visual displays.

NEH Small Museums Webinar

We are hosting a webinar on Wednesday April 23th at 4pm ET that will give more information about grants for small and mid-sized museums and cultural institutions. We will use stories of previous grantees to share information on Preservation Assistance Grants, NEH On The Road (a traveling exhibition program), grants from NEH’s Division of Public Programs, and state humanities council exhibitions.

Some of the examples we may discuss include:

  • The Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society in Seattle, WA received a Preservation Assistance Grant to store thousands of drawings that detailed naval architecture.
  • The Rokeby Museum in Vermont received Planning and Implementation grants to create an exhibition on the Underground Railroad.
  • The Missouri Humanities Council collaborated with the Missouri State Museum to create a traveling exhibit, the Civil War in Missouri.

Register for the free webinar here. Please share this page with anyone who may be interested in attending. You can find more information about all of our grant programs here.

ICYMI and NEH in the News (March 24th-through April 4th)

In Case You Missed It

PBS aired a documentary this week chronicling research into the life of renowned explorer Dr. David Livingstone.

The Aquila Theatre in New York City will begin their YouStories program soon; learn more about their history working with NEH.

NEH-funded renovations at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis open to the public today.

With NEH funding, KQED (an NPR affiliate in Northern California) launched an interactive app on the New Deal murals

The NEH launched a new special initiative, Standing Together, to support humanities programs that examine the experiences of war and service.

The Great Books Foundation and the New York Council for the Humanities received an NEH grant that will support Talking Service, a discussion program for veterans.

NEH announced grants to support 208 humanities projects.

NEH In the News

Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War,” opened at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, IL. This NEH-funded traveling exhibition is composed of info graphics panels featuring reproductions of important documents, like the Emancipation Proclamation.

Two humanities projects in West Virginia and seven in Virginia received NEH grants to further develop their projects, the largest of which, went to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., which will help digitize and catalog more than 365,000 artifacts from President Andrew Jackson’s home in Tennessee.

South Seattle College announced “Journey through Muslim Lands,” a NEH-funded art exhibit, will travel to their art gallery and library from April 7th-May 2nd, 2014.

Penn Libraries announced Wednesday that they have received two NEH grants totaling $530,000 to bolster their online collections. Their Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts is the largest repository of data on Medieval and Early Modern manuscripts available to scholars.

The NEH has awarded archaeologists at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello a grant to help with the completion of Beyond the Mansion 2.0, a web-based collaborative project with The Hermitage.

The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia has been awarded a two-year, $300,000 NEH grant to facilitate a greater understanding of one of America’s largest, and most historic metropolitan areas.

Freedom Riders will be shown this Saturday in the Salt Lake area, followed by a panel discussion to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A University of Delaware history professor has been awarded an NEH Summer Stipend grant to support her research on drought, science and social progress in Brazil.

Check out this mapping tool created by the New York Public Library with funding from the NEH.

New Deal Murals Interactive App

NEH will be participating in two upcoming events highlighting technology and cultural tourism: the Cultural Heritage Tourism Exchange on April 24th and 25th, and a Congressional briefing on May 2nd (details to be announced).

When President Franklin Roosevelt started the Works Progress Administration (WPA), he hoped both to boost national morale and to provide economic relief. The WPA commissioned projects that would benefit the country as a whole—for example, by creating jobs for artists working on projects designed to instill pride in national and local history. Artists painted frescoes, now known as the New Deal Murals, throughout San Francisco with support from the WPA.

Today, the murals draw visitors from all across the country. KQED, an NPR affiliate in northern California, created the Let’s Get Lost app to teach visitors about the history of the murals, as well as the WPA and the New Deal era. KQED received funding from NEH’s Division of Public Programs to create this cultural tourism app. The app allows Bay-Area visitors to explore the New Deal Murals and other local sites through walking tours, video clips, and a related website. The app is free to download for iOS and android devices.

National Civil Rights Museum: Lorraine Motel Exhibitions

Tomorrow, the National Civil Rights Museum will reopen following NEH-supported renovations.

Humanities Insights

April 4th is the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. To mark the date, the National Civil Rights Museum, which is housed at the Lorraine Motel Building in Memphis (the site of the assassination), will have a grand reopening following the completion of renovations that began in 2010. The museum is currently partially open and visitors can see exhibits on the history of the Civil Rights movement and the legacy of the assassination of Dr. King. Freedom’s Sisters—an interactive multimedia exhibit highlighting 20 nineteenth- and twentieth-century women who contributed to the freedom of all Americans—is currently running at the museum. Visitors may also tour the balcony where Dr. King last stood. Tours of the balcony will end February 2nd.

The newly refurbished Lorraine Motel will house replicas of a bus from the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, a lunch counter from…

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Aquila Theatre

Aquila Theatre will host a YouStories program–A Female Philoctetesfrom April 16th through 19th at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The mission of the Aquila Theatre is to make classical works accessible to a wide audience, including people who have not previously encountered ancient Greek drama. Classical plays have transcended their origins because they ask questions about what it means to be human—questions that are as pertinent today as they were when the plays were written more than two thousand years ago. The NEH awarded the Aquila Theatre three grants to assist it in its mission to ensure that the humanities reach wide audiences. In 2008, Aquila Theatre received support from NEH for its Page and Stage: Theatre, Tradition, and Culture in America initiative. The program benefited underserved communities, allowing for a series of performances, readings, and programs, which focused on the contemporary resonances of the plays.

In 2010, Aquila Theatre received a second grant for Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives. Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives was aimed at underserved inner city and rural communities with a special focus on veterans and members of military families. The goal was to give audience members the chance to share their stories and process their experiences through performances and discussions of ancient Greek drama. The program centered around four thematic units: Rites of Passage (Changing Worlds, Transforming Lives), Stranger in Strange Land (Encountering the Other), Homecoming (The Return of the Warrior), and From Homer to Hip Hop (The Art of Storytelling). Those units explored significant humanities themes that consider the connections between classical literature and contemporary America. More than one hundred locations nationwide hosted Ancient Greeks/ Modern Lives programming.

Aquila Theatre is now adapting concepts from Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives for a new audience of veterans and civilians. The Theatre is planning scholar-led reading/performance and discussion programs, a website, and a mobile app focused on the ways in which classical Greek and Roman drama continue to resonate for veterans as well as civilian audiences.

Secrets of the Dead: The Lost Diary of Dr. Livingstone

Dr. David Livingstone was a popular hero of the Victorian era, a celebrated explorer, a staunch abolitionist and pioneering doctor, who developed a treatment for malaria. Famously reclusive, he disappeared for six years during one of his expeditions to Africa until American journalist Henry Morton Stanley stumbled upon him in a small village, famously saying “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.”

Now, 140 years after his death, PBS will air a documentary on him, called Secrets of the Dead: The Lost Diary of Dr. Livingstone, on Wednesday, March 26, at 10 p.m. ET. The film will follow a team of experts, led by the University of Nebraska’s Adrian Wisnicki, as they decipher Livingstone’s recently discovered field diary. The diary, written in berry juice on newspaper pages, contains details about his obsessive search for the source of the Nile, thoughts on his wife’s death, and an account of the slaughter of 400 Africans in the village Nyangwe.

The NEH has awarded a number of grants in support of Adrian Wisnicki’s work restoring, preserving, and making accessible this unique resource. The Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project, supported by NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities and Division of Research Programs, utilizes imaging technology to create a digital image archive and online scholarly edition of the field diary. This collaboration between humanities scholars and scientists also developed technology to recover the faded text of the journal. The technology provides a template for the restoration and display of other hard-to-read documents.

March Madness at NEH: Villanova University

Throughout the rest of March, we will have a special series of blog posts following the NCAA Division I College Basketball tournament, highlighting grantees at institutions represented in the tournament.

Professor Paul Rosier, Chair of the Villanova University Department of History, recently published Serving their Country: American Indian Politics and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century, an examination of the salient international and domestic issues impacting Native Americans as they fought for their place in U.S. society. The award-winning book traces how—during the Cold War—Native Americans drew from the ideals of self-determination and freedom in order to preserve their reservations. Rosier’s work goes on to emphasize the profound legacy that Red Power activists had on America, as Native Americans began to press for greater integration into American society.

Professor Rosier initiated this endeavor with the help of a Summer Stipend awarded by the NEH Division of Research Programs. Summer Stipends are designed to support individual scholars in their quest to publish and disseminate advanced research that is of value to the humanities community. These scholarly works can include books, digital materials, articles, archaeological reports and translations.

March Madness at NEH: University of Arizona

Throughout the rest of March, we will have a special series of blog posts following the NCAA Division I College Basketball tournament, highlighting grantees at institutions represented in the tournament.

The Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) program is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation to document endangered languages. A language is most endangered when it is spoken chiefly by elderly people. Linguists therefore work with aging populations to document languages. More than three thousand languages spoken today are classified as endangered.

Linguist Stacy Oberly at the University of Arizona recently received a DEL award for her project Documenting Southern Ute: Naturally Occurring Speech and Personal Narrative. With NEH funding, she documented the Southern Ute language, which is spoken primarily in Colorado and classified as highly endangered with only forty remaining speakers, all of whom are more than sixty years old. To document this language, she made fifteen hours of audio and video recordings of naturally occurring speech and personal narratives collected from a number of Southern Ute speakers. The audio and video data were then transcribed, translated, annotated and entered into an electronic database that will be archived and disseminated to the Ute community. This archive greatly expanded the knowledge and understanding of a language that is syntactically and morphologically interesting and preserves an important part of the Ute Nation’s indigenous heritage.

March Madness at the NEH: University of Florida

Throughout the rest of March, we will have a special series of blog posts following the NCAA Division I College Basketball tournament, highlighting grantees at institutions represented in the tournament.

The Digital Epigraphy and Archaeology project (DEA) is an interdisciplinary project initiated by scientists from the Digital Worlds Institute and the Department of Classics at the University of Florida. They created the Digital Epigraphy Toolbox, which is an open-source, cross-platform web application designed to facilitate the digital preservation, study, and electronic dissemination of ancient inscriptions. It allows epigraphists to digitize in 3D their epigraphic squeezes: that is, impressions of inscriptions made by placing a special thin piece of paper over an inscription, and then rubbing it with what’s called a squeeze brush. The toolbox’s cost-effective technique overcomes the limitations of other ways of digitizing ancient inscriptions. The toolbox provides several options for 3D visualization of inscriptions as well as a set of scientific tools for analyzing lettering techniques. Users are able to share their data or to search for other uploaded collections of 3D inscriptions.

The DEA received support from NEH’s Digital Humanities Start-up Grant program. Since its creation, the toolbox has been presented at national and international conferences, such as the 104th American Institute of Archaeology Annual Meeting and the 13th Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy hosted by Oxford University. In 2012 it placed second in an international competition for an eHumanities Digital Innovation Award; the competition was hosted by the University of Leipzig in Germany. The National Archives [UK] used the toolbox to digitize 13th-16th century artifacts in its collection. More recently, the DEA group teamed up with Cornell University and the Library of Congress to digitize historical documents written by President Lincoln, including the Gettysburg Address.