The National Endowment for the Humanities is celebrating crossing the milestone of 2000 Preservation Assistance Grants since the year 2000. These grants help small and mid-sized institutions — such as libraries, museums, historical societies, archival repositories, cultural organizations, town and county records offices, and colleges and universities — improve their ability to preserve and care for their significant humanities collections.
Below you will find short videos of Preservation Assistance Grant recipients showcasing books, photographs, letters, art works, textiles, or other objects from their collections of particular significance to the humanities and their communities. For stories about these and other Preservation Assistance Grant projects, visit our 50 States of Preservation.
Inside the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) in Flagstaff, rays from the rising sun are cast onto the interior wall to mark the path between summer and winter solstices. The building captures dramatic views of the San Francisco Peaks and uses native Coconino sandstone and plants for its walls and landscapes. Staff from the museum consulted with local Native American tribes to integrate the natural landscape, address any concerns they had about its contents, and incorporate particular features they wanted, such as the orientation of the building’s entrance to the east. Founded in 1928 by a zoologist and an artist, the MNA seeks to foster an appreciation of the history and culture of the Colorado Plateau, which extends across the states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Over the last 15 years, with the support of seven NEH awards through the Division of Preservation and Access, the MNA has been able to preserve its large holdings of Native American cultural objects, artworks, and archives, which are viewed by 80,000 visitors each year.
Sometimes parched by drought, washed out by floods, or threatened by fire, the area around Los Angeles was in the early 20th century still dotted with farms growing citrus, celery, walnuts, beets, and berries, and ranchers raising cattle and sheep in the hills. In 1927, Susanna Bixby Bryant, daughter of one of the founders of Long Beach, California, set aside 200 acres of her family’s Orange County ranch to establish the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG). Bryant wanted to encourage the study and appreciation of California’s wild plants as an oil boom, industry, highways, and railroads signaled changes to come.
Should your travels take you to Washington, DC, during our hot and humid summer months, there’s no better place to visit than the Heurich House Museum near Dupont Circle. Known as the “Brewmaster’s Castle,” this late-Victorian architectural gem completed in 1894 was home to German immigrant, local brewer, and philanthropist Christian Heurich and his family for more than 60 years. Heurich owned the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co., the city’s longest-operating brewery (1872–1956). At one time, he was the District’s second largest landowner and largest non-governmental employer. While you can’t see the brewery itself — the building along the Potomac River was torn down in 1962 to construct the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge — you can schedule a Brewmaster Tour, which includes an hour-long guided tour of the house museum followed by a tasting of three local craft beers.
What if you lost all of the files on your computer — photographs, documents, music, videos? That’s exactly what happened several years ago at the Archives and Special Collections at Valdosta State University (VSU) in Valdosta, Georgia. Through a series of freak accidents in the winter of 2010–11, the archives lost three external drives and suffered catastrophic hard-drive failures on four computers. Archivists and data recovery experts worked to salvage as much as they could, but the archives permanently lost more than 80 gigabytes of electronic files from collections and projects. Realizing the pressing need for better hardware, more consistent policies and procedures for tracking items, and a comprehensive digital preservation strategy, the archives applied for and received an NEH Preservation Assistance Grant in 2012, in an effort to avoid another loss of critical digital materials.
Located in the town of Ottawa, the Franklin County Historical Society (FCHS) is an important custodian of local history for this part of northeast Kansas. Founded in 1937, FCHS oversees a collection of some 30,000 manuscripts and photographs in its Records and Research Center. It also administers a restored pioneer home from 1859 and the 8,000-square-foot Old Depot Museum, which began life as a railroad depot in 1888. (A 1940s railroad caboose parked outside the building testifies to its early history.) All told, the Old Depot Museum houses more than 25,000 historic artifacts.
Located in the small (population: 6,735) town of Fairfield, Maine, the L.C. Bates Museum has a unique history. The museum occupies the historic Quincy Manual Training Building (1903), part of Good Will Homes — an establishment for orphans founded in 1889 by George Walter Hinckley (1853–1950). Good Will Homes was very much a family affair, run for much of its existence by Hinckley, his wife, and children. Although non-denominational, Good Will Homes stressed moral uplift and religious instruction, in accord with its patron’s devotion to the Social Gospel.
The Yellowstone Gateway Museum (YGM) is located in Livingston, Montana. Since 1976, it has served both the 15,000 permanent residents of Park County, as well as some of the more than 600,000 visitors who pass through Livingston each year on the way to Yellowstone National Park. The museum maintains a collection of 50,000 artifacts, photographs, archival materials, and oral histories all related to the history of the region. The collection and exhibits focus on pioneer life and ranching, early businesses and communities, military history, the railroad, and the Plains Indians who originally occupied this part of Montana. The diverse materials serve academic researchers, writers, filmmakers, along with genealogists, students, and school teachers.
In 1820, Major Stephen Long headed the first government-sponsored scientific expedition to discover the source of the Platte River. One of the expedition’s members, assistant naturalist Titian Ramsay Peale, was tasked with collecting and documenting the fauna that they encountered during their mission. His efforts resulted in over one hundred sketches, including some landscapes and scenes of Native American life. Though the group never did discover the source of the river, Peale’s works, such as his pencil sketch Stag Resting in a Landscape (1820), help paint a portrait of the territory that would later become the state of Nebraska in 1867. Fittingly, the pencil sketch is now part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA), home of the State of Nebraska’s official art collection since 1979.
For the educators and curators at the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter, Rhode Island, indigenous life both past and present can feel “invisible.” Many people learn about Native Americans through their study of the colonial period and a few stereotypical images. The museum counters these views by bringing forward indigenous stories and perspectives in all their complexity. And they emphasize that indigenous people are still here today, making history, art, and culture, and contributing to New England’s communities.
Founded in 1785, Spartanburg grew from a small courthouse village to become the hub of textile manufacturing in South Carolina during the late 19th and early 20th century. Today, Spartanburg is an important commercial center in South Carolina’s Upcountry. Spartanburg County Public Libraries(SCPL) is a leader in the acquisition, preservation, and presentation of historical documents in the region and, as such, plays an important part in preserving its history. The library holds a large collection of monographs, manuscript materials, photographs, architectural and engineering drawings, maps, and audiovisual records. Some highlights: the B&B Studio collection — 10,000 photographic negatives that portray Spartanburg County and environs from 1946 through the 1990s and the Stribling-Gooch collection of historic maps, plats, and surveys, dating from the 1850s to the present.
The town of Bristol, situated on the border of Tennessee and Virginia (its Main Street forms the dividing line between the two states) is well known to fans of country music. In 1927, Bristol was the site of the legendary musical recording sessions of Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter Family, conducted by Victor Records producer Ralph Peer. These sessions helped the artists achieve commercial prominence and set country music on its modern path. In view of its cultural importance, Congress in 1998 officially recognized Bristol as “The Birthplace of Country Music.”
Located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Massanutten Regional Library (MRL) is the chief repository of historical materials related to the history of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. MRL’s Genealogy and Local History Collection contains nearly 8,000 books, manuscripts, oral histories, files, ephemera, and maps that are frequently used by academic researchers, family historians, and members of the public interested in the history of the region. In the 18th century, Rockingham County, Virginia, was a thoroughfare for many settlers heading to the frontier, and later it was the location of several Civil War battles.
Thanks to a local initiative, the residents of Rockingham, Vermont, can see what their community looked like back in the days when you could water your oxen in a trough in the town square. The town’s collection of historic photographs also captures local eccentric Hetty Green, known as “the richest woman in America,” the “Witch of Wall Street,” and the “World’s Greatest Miser,” relaxing on her porch. Ulysses S. Grant spoke from the balcony of the renowned luxury hotel, Island House, an event recorded in the photographs. Residents and researchers can use pictures of children participating in a corn “Husking Bee” and images showing the Bellows Falls’s evolution from natural landscape to railroad hub to thriving industrial center.
eattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum (NHM) maintains a collection of some 77,000 works of art and historical objects related to the history of Scandinavia and its peoples. One of the museum’s most popular destinations is the Folk Art Gallery, which has featured selections from 3,000 pieces of clothing from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, as well as costumes representing different Nordic immigrant communities in North America and the Sami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia. The NHM’s textile collection dates from 1820 to the present. One notable example is an 1890 Skautbúningur costume used as bridal dress by five generations of an Icelandic-American family; the unique designs on the costume’s stitching and the belt are based on medieval patterns and motifs, some of which date back to the Viking era.
Apply for a Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions by May 1, 2018 by clicking here. Updated guidelines will be posted at least two months in advance of the deadline.