In November 2022, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced a new funding initiative –American Tapestry: Weaving Together Past, Present, and Future. This new initiative aims to leverage the humanities to strengthen America’s democracy, advance equity for all, and address the changing climate.
Within this initiative are new grant programs including “Dangers & Opportunities of Technology: Perspectives from the Humanities,” “Cultural and Community Resilience Program,” and “Climate Smart Humanities Organizations.”
Dangers and Opportunities of Technology: Perspectives from the Humanities
This grant program supports research that examines the relationship between technology and society. The NEH is interested in projects that examine current social and cultural issues that are significantly shaped by technology. Possible areas for research include climate change, racial justice, social media (disinformation and the democratic process), wealth inequality, and educational technologies. This grant program will fund research assistance, community partner participation, conducting studies or interviews, data collection, designing curricular materials, and development or production of articles, books, documentary films, websites, or other forms of intellectual output. Projects led by a single researcher may be awarded up to $75,000 and projects led by collaborative teams may be awarded up to $150,000.
Learn more: https://www.neh.gov/program/dangers-and-opportunities-technology-perspectives-humanities
Address Our Changing Climate
While the NEH has previously provided technical assistance and support for cultural and educational institutions to protect and preserve collections and programs following natural disasters, the new American Tapestry initiative will “develop and implement programs that incorporate climate resilience in the nation’s cultural and education sectors and promote robust humanities research into the cultural and historical roots of the climate crisis and its impact of human language, culture, and society.”
Cultural and Community Resilience
This grant program builds cultural and community resilience in the face of climate change as well as challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded activities include identifying and capturing cultural and historical resources, safeguarding cultural resources, collecting oral histories from individuals impacts, documenting traditional knowledge, memories of elders, practices, or technology that may inform contemporary ways of working and living, engaging in collaborative planning efforts to prepare communities for rapid response collecting, and applying insights from cultural heritage identification and documentation projects to inform local and regional community resilience strategies.
All proposed activities must relate to either climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic. The program prioritizes projects from disadvantaged communities and the NEH encourages applications that employ inclusive methodologies.
The Cultural and Community Resilience funding program supports the collection of the experiences of doctors, nurses, and other emergency responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also supports the documenting of everyday community experiences during the pandemic such as lifestyle changes and shortages or losses.
Since this is a new grant program, the NEH offers potential project ideas including a local historical society that creates an oral history collection with reflections from first responders after wildfires or other types of climate crises or an organization that is interested in documenting and safeguarding traditional memories of Indigenous elders or other knowledge keepers during climate crisis.
Another suggested project idea is in an area prone to wildfires, a public library, local college or university, and historical society develop a plan for rapid response collecting should a wildfire occur. One project outcome would be a memorandum of understanding outlining the goals of collecting, and the responsibilities of each partner –including outreach to the community and acting as the repository for physical and digital collection items.
Organizations may be awarded up to $150,000 for projects for up to two years.
Learn more: https://www.neh.gov/program/cultural-and-community-resilience
Climate Smart Humanities Organizations
This grant program is designed to help museums, libraries, archives, historic sites, and colleges and universities anticipate the operational, physical, and financial impacts of climate-related events on their institutions while also reducing their own impact on the environment.
Organizations can also use this funding to undertake activities such as energy audits, risk assessments, and meetings with consultants. The objective of this grant program is to help organizations create a climate-smart plan that establishes goals and prioritizes actions that reduce the organization’s impact on the environment through mitigation and vulnerability from extreme events through adaptation. The NEH emphasizes that strategic planning for climate change is an essential part of sustaining humanities organizations’ operations and activities, thereby becoming climate smart.
An organization’s climate action plan evaluates alternative energy sources, identifies building improvements that would result in increased operational efficiencies and lower energy use, landscape improvements (such as reforestation or native groundcover to support better environmental conditions and offset carbon producing-activities), encourage lower-carbon transportation options for visitors, staff, and operations (such as bicycle and pedestrian access, public transportation, and ride-sharing), and establishes organizational recycling, composting, reuse, and waste reduction plans.
Funded project activities include a comprehensive energy audit of an organization’s building, land use, utilities, operations, and facilities, a calculation of an organization's carbon footprint, testing of the existing HVAC system, or the installation of energy, waste, or carbon footprint monitoring and sub-metering equipment to measure consumption.
Organizations can reach out to their local energy company to see what kind of services they offer, explore the Department of Energy’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager or the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory tool, or search for local climate action plans published by New York State or local government.
The maximum award amount is $300,000 for up to 2 years. This grant program offers federal matching funds for comprehensive organizational assessments that lead to strategic climate action and adaptation plans. In order to receive federal matching funds, recipients must raise $1 of non-federal, third-party funds for every $1 requested from the NEH. This match must be raised by July 21, 2024. The total project budget includes the funds requested from the NEH plus the required match.
Learn more: https://www.neh.gov/program/climate-smart-humanities-organizations-0
Funding for Small and Mid-Sized Organizations
Another new funding program that will launch in 2023 is the “Public Impact Projects at Smaller Organizations.” This is a program designed specifically to help small and mid-sized cultural organizations to increase the impact, reach, and excellence of their public programs. The main goal of this grant program is to help smaller organizations expand their impact, reach, and public programming. Grant awards will support a variety of activities that will focus on either strengthening interpretive approaches for future programming or enhancing community engagement with public programming. More information will be available in early 2023 with an application deadline in summer 2023.
Learn more about these and other funding opportunities from the NEH here: https://www.neh.gov/americantapestry