National Endowment for the Humanities Announces New Grants

An interactive timeline of the history of African-American music developed by Carnegie Hall, the digital re-creation of the acoustics of cultural sites, a series of short animated videos about basic concepts in philosophy and a virtual-reality game allowing users to explore the ancient pueblo of Mesa Verde are among the 253 recipients of new grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The grants, which total $14.8 million, are the endowment’s third and final round of the year. They are distributed across a wide swatch of the country, supporting projects in 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. An additional $47.5 million was awarded to 55 state humanities council partners, for operational support.

“From cutting-edge digital projects to the painstaking practice of traditional scholarly research, these new N.E.H. grants represent the humanities at its most vital and creative,” Jon Parrish Peede, the endowment’s chairman, said in a statement.

Digital projects receiving support include an interactive graphic novel about a 1741 slave rebellion in New York City, being developed by the group Historic Hudson Valley, and an augmented-reality experience at the Chicago History Museum that will take visitors to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, where they can witness the unveiling of the first Ferris wheel, a technological marvel of its time.

The soundscape project, created by a team at the Rochester Institute of Technology, will digitally recreate the “auditory signature” of a historic studio on Nashville’s Music Row and the 3,000-year-old Chavin de Huantar archaeological site in Peru, as part of an effort to establish protocols for preserving the “aural heritage” of historic sites and structures.

Some grants support more traditional, individual scholarly projects, like a study of a recently discovered early draft of the King James Bible, and a biography of Mary Willing Byrd, the rare woman to run a large plantation in the American South.

Others are supporting large-scale institutional projects, like the creation of a digital database that will allow museums to share information to help track the international exchange of works of art. Another grant will underwrite a preservation service to help museums, libraries and historical groups in the Gulf Coast and Appalachia with disaster planning.

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