The Whiting Foundation Provides New Grants for Public Humanities Projects Filling in the Tapestry of History and Culture
MAY 11, 2021. The humanities – subjects like history, literature, and philosophy – make transformative contributions to our world. When they step beyond the walls of a university, the humanities can enrich public life in unique and vital ways: amplifying unheard or forgotten stories, giving public discourse depth and context, and applying essential insights from the long history of human inquiry.
The Whiting Public Engagement Program (WPEP) is a distinctive national grant founded to champion the public humanities in all forms, and to highlight the roles scholars play in work to deploy the humanities for the public good. Since it began in 2016, the WPEP has given $2.4 million to launch and expand projects in the US and beyond. Winners are selected through a highly competitive process beginning with nomination by a university, scholarly society, or state humanities council and proceeding through two further stages of peer review by expert public humanists.
Today we proudly award seven $50,000 Fellowships & five $10,000 Seed Grants to a vibrant cross-section of public-humanities collaborations. Their projects draw on topics from the global history of paper currency to the culture of rural Hispanic communities in eastern Arizona, and they use media from traveling museum exhibits to virtual-reality film to community oral-history workshops.
Examples of this year’s twelve winning projects include:
- An exhibit using paper money to reflect 10,000 years of Black history, from an Algerian 1,000-dinar bill depicting the cave art of a thriving prehistoric civilization to a Canadian 10-dollar bill featuring activist Viola Desmond
- Storytelling and preservation workshops in rural eastern Arizona to build on the region’s Hispanic communities’ work to sustain their histories and customs, creating a digital repository and hosting public events
- A hands-on educational game drawing on the work of Ida B. Wells to illuminate the ways African-Americans who moved in the Great Migration made new lives in NYC, designed alongside high-school testers and a California nonprofit
- A series of comics illustrating the history and culture of the Kumeyaay people in Southern California, co-created with Kumeyaay community members, with accompanying lesson plans
- A virtual-reality film series exploring masculinity in Indian society through the experiences of nine people of different caste and ethnic backgrounds who do not adhere to conventional gender roles and societal expectations
- A community-documentation initiative in a west Detroit neighborhood that is over 90% African American, safeguarding through an interactive website, permanent public archive, and book the stories of its distinctive past and current Muslim-led revitalization
“The humanities make a crucial difference for all of us, in so many ways,” said Daniel Reid, Executive Director of the Whiting Foundation. “These twelve projects – and the many others being led by scholars and other public humanists in every part of the country – will build bridges within and across communities, enrich our understanding and help us interpret the world around us, and make our lives more meaningful through deep context, rich exchange, and careful inquiry.”