National Endowment for the Humanities Awards Covid Relief Grants

The New York Public Library, the USS Constitution Museum in Boston and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in Charlottesville, Va., are among more than 300 beneficiaries of new Covid relief grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities that are being announced on Monday.

The grants, which total $87.8 million and are supported by $135 million in funding allocated to the endowment under the American Rescue Plan Act that was signed into law in March, will provide emergency relief to help offset pandemic-related financial losses at museums, libraries, universities and historical sites in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and Northern Marianas. The endowment distributed the first $52.6 million in June.

Adam Wolfson, the endowment’s acting chairman, said in a statement that the grants, which can be as much as $500,000 for organizations and $5 million for grant-making programs that distribute funds to organizations, “will save thousands of jobs in the humanities placed at risk by the pandemic and help bring economic recovery to cultural and educational institutions and those they serve.”

The cultural and educational institutions will receive a total of $59 million from the endowment, and 13 grant-making organizations will receive $28.8 million to distribute to humanities projects undertaken by organizations or individuals.

The funding, designed to allow organizations to retain and rehire staff, as well as rebuild programs and projects disrupted by the pandemic, will enable the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to develop an African-American oral history project at Monticello, the plantation where the former president lived until his death in 1826; allow the New York Public Library to expand its digitized collection of African American, African and African diasporic materials; and support the creation of hands-on experiences and virtual programming about the Navy ship anchored in Boston at the USS Constitution Museum.

In New York, 33 of the state’s cultural organizations and three grant-making programs will receive a total of $16.2 million. Funding will support expanded access to materials by historically underrepresented artists in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s library collections; the hiring of a videographer at the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation to document the theater’s legacy, with a focus on African and African American culture; and planning for the Museum of the City of New York’s centennial year in 2023. Firelight Media, a nonprofit that supports filmmakers of color, will also receive $2 million for a grant program for 36 Black, Indigenous and people of color filmmakers whose work on documentary projects was disrupted by the pandemic.

Elsewhere, the grants will allow both Old North Church in Boston and Christ Church in Philadelphia to investigate their ties to the colonial slave trade, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to design an immersive living history experience to introduce visitors to their history and culture, and the Willa Cather Foundation in Red Cloud, Neb., to develop tours about the writer whose novels explore the lives of early pioneers there.

Around 90 colleges and universities received funding to support their humanities programs and departments: Adjunct faculty at Seattle Community College will work with local tribal representatives to revise history and literature courses to incorporate Indigenous perspectives, the University of Oklahoma Press will develop a new Native American imprint in collaboration with the university’s Native Nations Center and East Tennessee State University will retain and rehire staff to support free online access to materials documenting the history of Southern Appalachia.

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