National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 established by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

. The NEH is located at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. in the Old Post Office.


The NEH provides grants for high-quality humanities projects to cultural institutions such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. The agency is also a base supporter of a network of private, nonprofit affiliates, the 56 humanities councils in the United States. These grants are given in order to strengthen teaching and learning in the humanities in schools and colleges across the nation, facilitate research and original scholarship, provide opportunities for lifelong learning, preserve and provide access to cultural and educational resources and to strengthen the institutional base of the humanities.

The Endowment is directed by a chairman, who is appointed by the President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 and confirmed by the Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

, for a term of four years. Advising the chairman is the National Council on the Humanities, a board of 26 distinguished private citizens who are also appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The National Council members serve staggered six-year terms.

On June 3, 2009, President Obama announced that he intended to nominate former Iowa congressman Jim Leach
Jim Leach
James Albert Smith "Jim" Leach is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa. In August 2009, he became Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities ....

, a Republican, to be the next chairman of the NEH. The Senate confirmed his appointment in August 2009. Leach began his four-year term as the NEH Chairman on August 12, 2009


  • Barnaby Keeney
    Barnaby Keeney
    Barnaby Conrad Keeney was president of Brown University from 1955 to 1966 where he was known and loved by the student body for openness and his dry wit...

    , 1963-1965, chairman of National Commission on the Humanities
  • Henry Allen Moe, 1965–66, interim chairman
  • Barnaby Keeney, 1966–1970
  • Wallace Edgerton, Acting Chairman, 1970–71
  • Ronald Berman, 1971–1977
  • Robert Kingston, Acting Chairman, 1977
  • Joseph Duffey
    Joseph Duffey
    Joseph Daniel Duffey is an American academic, educator and political appointee.He received an A.B. from Marshall University in 1954, a B.D. from Andover Theological School in 1957, an S.T.M. from Yale University in 1963, and a Ph.D. from Hartford Seminary Foundation in 1969...

    , 1977–81
  • William J. Bennett, 1981–85
  • John Agresto
    John Agresto
    John Agresto is an author, lecturer, and university administrator. He worked full-time with the The American University of Iraq – Sulaimani as its Interim Provost and Chancellor...

    , Acting Chairman, 1985
  • Lynne Cheney
    Lynne Cheney
    Lynne Ann Cheney is the wife of former United States Vice President Dick Cheney and served as the Second Lady of the United States from 2001 to 2009...

    , 1986–1993
  • Jerry L. Martin, Acting Chairman, 1993
  • Donald Gibson, Acting Chairman, 1993
  • Sheldon Hackney
    Sheldon Hackney
    Francis Sheldon Hackney is a prominent U.S. educator. He is the Boies Professor of United States History at the University of Pennsylvania. Hackney earned his Ph.D. in American History at Yale University, where he worked with eminent Southern historian C. Vann Woodward. He began his career as a...

    , 1993–97
  • Bruce A. Lehman, Acting Chairman, 1997
  • William R. Ferris
    William R. Ferris
    William Reynolds Ferris is an American author and scholar and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities...

    , 1997–2001
  • Bruce Cole
    Bruce Cole
    Bruce Cole is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DCHe was born in Ohio and attended Case Western Reserve University. He earned his master's degree from Oberlin College and his doctorate from Bryn Mawr College. He is also the recipient of nine honorary doctorate degrees. For...

    , 2001-2009
  • Carole M. Watson, Acting Chairman, 2009
  • Jim Leach
    Jim Leach
    James Albert Smith "Jim" Leach is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa. In August 2009, he became Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities ....

    , 2009–Present

Grant-Making Divisions and Offices

The NEH has seven grant-making divisions and offices:

The Office of Challenge Grants specializes in matching grants intended to inspire and augment fundraising by humanities institutions for the sake of their long-term stability.

The Office of Digital Humanities promotes the use of technology to ask new questions. It makes grants and sponsors efforts that show how new media and technology are reshaping traditional disciplines in the humanities.

The Division of Education works to support and strengthen teaching of the humanities.

The Office of Federal/State Partnership collaborates with fifty-six state and jurisdictional humanities councils to support local programs.

The Division of Preservation and Access awards grants to help maintain cultural and historic collections.

The Division of Public Programs supports projects that bring the humanities to large audiences through libraries and museums, television and radio, historic sites, and digital media.

The Division of Research makes awards to support original scholarship in all areas of the humanities, funding individuals as well as teams of researchers and institutions.

Noteworthy Projects

Since 1965, the Endowment has sponsored noteworthy projects such as:
  • "Treasures of Tutankhamen," the blockbuster exhibition seen by more than 1.5 million people
  • The Civil War, the landmark 1990 documentary by Ken Burns seen by 38 million Americans.
  • Library of America, editions of novels, essays, and poems celebrating America's literary heritage
  • United States Newspaper Project, an effort to catalog and microfilm 63.3 million pages of newspapers dating from the early Republic
  • Fifteen Pulitzer-Prize winning books, including those by James M. McPherson, Louis Menand, Joan D. Hedrick, and Bernard Bailyn

The Civility Tour

Between November 2009 and May 2011, Chairman Leach is conducting the American Civility Tour. Leach will visit each of the 50 states, speaking at venues ranging from university and museum lecture halls to hospitals for veterans to call attention to the need for civility in public discourse. The Tour was created because the exchange of ideas and the consideration of other viewpoints are central to the humanities. The initiative is calling to bring the spirit of reason back into politics.

The Bridging Cultures Initiative

NEH's newest initiative , Bridging Cultures, aims to stimulate important humanities efforts in two thematic areas: "Civility and Democracy" and "The Muslim World and the Humanities." These two themes are of great interest today both as subjects of humanities scholarship and as an issue of public concern, making them especially suitable for demonstrating the role of the humanities in taking thoughtful approaches to issues that matter to a broad American Public.

"We the People" Initiative

"We the People" is an NEH program designed to encourage and enhance the teaching, study, and understanding of American history, culture, and democratic principles. The initiative supports projects and programs that explore significant events and themes in our nation's history, which advance knowledge of the principles that define America.

NEH was founded on the belief that cultivating the best of the humanities has real and tangible benefits for civic life. Through "We the People," NEH has rededicated itself to this mission, and is leading a renaissance in knowledge about American history and principles among all our citizens. The NEH launched the "We the People" initiative on Constitution Day, September 17, 2002.

Jefferson Lecture

Since 1972 the NEH has sponsored the Jefferson Lecture
Jefferson Lecture
The Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities is an honorary lecture series established in 1972 by the National Endowment for the Humanities . According to the NEH, the Lecture is "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities."-History of...

 in the Humanities, which it describes as "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities." The Jefferson Lecturer is selected each year by the National Council on the Humanities. The honoree delivers a lecture in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 during the spring, and receives an honorarium of $10,000. The stated purpose of the honor is to recognize "an individual who has made significant scholarly contributions in the humanities and who has the ability to communicate the knowledge and wisdom of the humanities in a broadly appealing way."

National Humanities Medal and Charles Frankel Prize

The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens' engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans' access to important resources in the humanities. Up to 12 medals can be awarded each year. From 1989 to 1996 the NEH awarded a similar prize known as the Charles Frankel
Charles Frankel
Charles Frankel was an American philosopher.Born in to a Jewish family in New York City, he was the son of Abraham Philip and Estelle Edith Frankel. He married Helen Beatrice Lehman on August 17, 1941. Together they had two children, Susan and Carl.Frankel was educated at Columbia, Charles...

 Prize. The new award, a bronze medallion was designed by 1995 Frankel Prize winner David Macaulay. Lists of the winners of the National Humanities Medal and Frankel Prize are available at the NEH website.

See also

  • Institute of Museum and Library Services
    Institute of Museum and Library Services
    The Institute of Museum and Library Services is an independent agency of the United States federal government established in 1996. It is the main source of federal support for libraries and museums within the United States, having the mission to "create strong libraries and museums that connect...

  • National Endowment for the Arts
    National Endowment for the Arts
    The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent agency of the United States federal government that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence. It was created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. Its current...

  • National Gallery of Art
    National Gallery of Art
    The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden is a national art museum, located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, in Washington, DC...

  • National Science Foundation
    National Science Foundation
    The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

  • Smithsonian Institution
    Smithsonian Institution
    The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

External links

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