Humanities faculty, staff, and #altac professionals are often encouraged to seek outside funding for developing their humanities projects, but it’s often difficult to even know where to start. A quick visit to the website of the National Endowment for the Humanities (www.neh.gov) can provide a sometimes dizzying array of grant programs. As a first step, I recommend you read “How to Get a Grant from NEH”, written by my colleague Meredith Hindley for NEH’s Humanities magazine. She effectively compiles some of the most common advice program officers share with potential applicants, and it’s worth a careful review.
When looking for the right grant program, it’s also useful to understand how NEH is structured. There are six grant-making offices and divisions, and it’s helpful to think about the audiences and project types each might serve. The Division of Research, for example, offers grant programs to pursue specific scholarly inquiries, either individually (through Fellowships or Summer Stipends) or collaboratively (Collaborative Research, Scholarly Editions & Translations). The Division of Preservation & Access, as the name suggests, offers NEH’s primary program for digitization (Humanities Collections and Reference Resources), and centers on making humanities collections in archives, libraries, and museums more readily available to scholars and the public. Collaborations between humanities scholars and librarians/archivists are a common feature in proposals to this division. I heard a colleague recently describe the aim of the Division of Public Programs as translating humanities scholarship for the general public. This public outreach often happens through programs at cultural organizations (Museums, Libraries, and Cultural Organizations: Planning and Implementation Grants) or through Media Projects (Development and Production Grants), which funds film documentaries, radio shows, and increasingly digital media projects. The Division of Education Programs helps scholars and school teachers focus on specific areas of humanities inquiry that can enrich their scholarship and teaching (Seminars & Institutes). The Office of Challenge Grants offers large matching grants to support anything from infrastructure-building to recurring humanities programs. Finally, the Office of Digital Humanities supports basic research and innovation (Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants and Implementation Grants), professional development in new digital methodologies (Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities), and international collaboration (Digging into Data and the DFG-NEH Bilateral program).
It’s important to understand that while some projects really do fit best in one grant category, it’s not uncommon for more than one grant program to be appropriate for a larger project. We encourage applicants to contact a program officer to discuss a possible submission, and in many grant programs we even are willing to read an early draft and provide comments. Check the guidelines for more information about these services. For projects that are strongly located in a state or locality, I would also encourage you to contact your state humanities council, as they can be a wonderful resource.
Finally, even if you’re not quite ready to apply for a grant, consider taking advantage of our professional development programs. The Summer Seminars and Institutes program offers two- to five-week-long sessions on an array of humanities topics, and the Institutes for Technology in the Digital Humanities help scholars learn about technology tools and methodologies (and the theories that inform them) relevant to the humanities. For most institutes, attendance is free and includes reimbursement for travel and lodging.
Each year at MLA, we offer a grant workshop to discuss these programs in detail, so look for us next year in Vancouver!