Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 2
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
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Library’s Vision for Humanities Encouraged by NEH Grant

Ellen Gilbert

The recent National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) “We the People” grant awarded to the Princeton Public Library ($500,000, contingent on the Library’s ability to raise $1.5 million in matching funds) is one of 62 prizes given to scholars, teachers, filmmakers, museums, and other libraries and institutions for proposed projects that, according to the NEH, “encourage new scholarly research, support high-quality programs in under-funded educational institutions, preserve collections in America’s cultural heritage, help institutions support their long-term humanities projects, and enhance citizens’ understanding of history and culture through exhibitions, films, and other public programming.”

The Princeton Public Library’s stated goal in asking for the grant, to become “the pre-eminent center for humanities programming in Central New Jersey,” is wholly consistent with the ongoing mission of the Library, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.

A Busy Schedule

A quick look at the Library’s newsletter, Connections, reveals a calendar-filling number of humanities-based events, from art talks to dance festivals to poetry readings. These programs are designed to appeal to different user populations: adults, for example, may enjoy a “mystery book” discussion group while toddlers participate in a “Crafts for Little Bookworms” session. “Primary Source,” a new program for teens, is designed for middle and high school students interested in media and journalism. With advice from professionals in the field, “Primary Source” promises to help teens get started on a project that will entail interviewing local people about their lives.

Besides spanning age groups, Library programming in the humanities ranges from the homely (“Scrapbooking Sundays”) to the high-brow (an evening with Edward Albee and Emily Mann).

Other Winners

Two other institutions among those also receiving NEH “challenge grants” at this time included the American Research Institute Libraries in Turkey (ARIT), which received $550,000 in matching funds for the enhancement and endowment of Humanities Collections in libraries in Istanbul and Ankara, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, which was awarded $300,000 in NEH matching funds to endow the Position of Head of Museum Interpretation. The National Endowment for the Humanities was created in 1965 as an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.

Over the five years since its inception, the NEH “We the People” program has provided support to 1,377 projects, contributing more than $15 million in total grants and offers of matching funds. “As the ‘We the People’ program celebrates its fifth anniversary, it continues to support vital humanities projects that promote the study of America’s history, culture, and founding principles,” said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. “Humanities projects funded through Endowment support help us understand where we’ve been, who we are today, and what ideas we must pass on to future generations.”

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