National Endowment for the Humanities Gives $12.8M in Grants to 253 Projects

From environmental monitoring equipment for Frank Lloyd Wright homes to an overhaul of an online database of archaeological artifacts related to slavery, the grants span a huge range of projects.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation received a $6,000 NEH grant for environmental monitoring equipment to be installed at Taliesin and Taliesin West (pictured). (photo by Greg O'Beirne, via Wikimedia Commons)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation received a $6,000 NEH grant for environmental monitoring equipment to be installed at Taliesin and Taliesin West (pictured) (photo by Greg O’Beirne, via Wikimedia Commons)

This morning, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced its final round of grants for 2017, distributing $12.8 million to 253 projects. This marks the third major round of grants given by the NEH since President Trump called for the federal agency’s elimination in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. For now, the NEH — like the National Endowment for the Arts, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and other agencies — is waiting for Congress to pass a federal budget for fiscal year 2018 to know the fate of its funding.

The $12.8 million, a mix of outright and matching grants, will go toward a broad range of projects, from $6,000 for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to install temperature and humidity monitoring instruments at Wright’s Taliesin and Taliesin West houses, to nearly $350,000 for the development of an open source tool to monitor the deterioration of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. The latter project, spearheaded by Northwestern University scientist Marc Walton, will help scholars, conservators, and scientists to monitor the changes in metal soap formations in O’Keeffe’s oil paintings.

In Gallup, New Mexico, the local arts nonprofit gallupARTS received $30,000 (a mix of outright and matching funds) to develop a virtual exhibition showcasing its collection of more than 90 WPA artworks. The largest single recipient of funding in today’s batch, receiving $375,000 through a mix of outright and matching grants, will go to a major overhaul of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS), a major online database of information about archaeological artifacts and sites related to slavery in North America and the Caribbean.

“Today, the DAACS website freely provides standardized data on millions of artifacts, and the archaeological contexts in which they were found, from more than 80 excavated archaeological sites related to the lives of enslaved laborers in the early modern Atlantic World,” Jillian Galle, the DAACS’s project director, told Hyperallergic. The NEH grants, among other things, will allow DAACS users to search its archive more easily and intuitively. “This new search functionality responds to growth of the number of archaeological sites whose data reside in DAACS, from 10 in 2004 to over 80 today. These strategic investments in digital technology will make possible new kinds of scholarly collaboration and data sharing.”

Many of the grants are of a decidedly practical nature, from providing for storage and conservation infrastructure — the University of Oregon, for instance, received $6,000 to rehouse its collection of 134 painted Asian scrolls in custom archival boxes — to funding scholars’ research for book projects — like $50,400 toward scholar and author Carolyn Purnell’s forthcoming book on the science and history of color from the 18th century to today, and the same sum for University of Chicago art historian Claudia Brittenham’s tome on the meaning and function of concealed art in the Maya, Olmec, and Aztec cultures.

“The humanities offer us a path toward understanding ourselves, our neighbors, our nation,” Acting NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede said in a statement. “These new NEH grants exemplify the agency’s commitment to serving American communities through investing in education initiatives, safeguarding cultural treasures, and illuminating the history and values that define our shared heritage.”

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