This past November, the National Humanities Alliance traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana for the National Humanities Conference. While there, we had the opportunity to explore NEH-funded work currently being undertaken in the city:
- The Amistad Research Center, a community archive with collections documenting the history of Civil Rights and minority groups in the United States, is organizing records of the Federation of the Southern Cooperatives and the Emergency Land Fund. As a result, these records documenting the history of African American agriculture and land ownership in the South are becoming accessible for the first time.
- Over the past twenty years, American Routes, a two-hour radio program distributed through PRX, has brought explorations of regional American music and culture, from blues to zydeco, to more than half-a-million Americans each week. “Best of” shows have explored the relationship between imprisonment and music from Louisiana’s Angola Prison and featured South Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole music.
- VieNolaVie, a website that showcases life and culture in New Orleans, gives Tulane students the opportunity to delve deeply into New Orleans history and culture while developing content that is freely distributed to the community. The site extends the work of MediaNola, a digital humanities program funded by the NEH.
- With New Orleans: Music, Culture, and Civil Rights, an NEH Landmarks Workshop for Teachers, the Gulf South Center at Tulane University brings local scholars together with musicians, artists, and civil rights activists. Teachers spend a week exploring the city’s rich history and vibrant present while working with these experts.
- With an NEH planning grant for historic places, the Louisiana Historical Society is preparing to update its interpretation of Madame John’s Legacy. When it reopens, the eighteenth-century French Colonial home will better represent the history of the city and people who have inhabited it, while bringing locals and tourists alike into the complex.
- Faculty at Xavier University are developing a new minor for undergraduates in Digital Humanities, Data Analytics, and Digital Justice. The coursework will allow undergraduate students to learn technical skills while bringing humanities insights to current social issues.
- And PRIME TIME Family Reading, a program of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, brings scholar-facilitated book discussions. NEH funding has supported additional PRIME TIME programs throughout the United States.
What these programs and organizations have in common is a commitment to bridging borders, whether they be disciplinary or institutional, to not just bring humanities experiences to a wide swath of people but to build those experiences with people. As a result, New Orleans hosts a uniquely collaborative humanities environment that is firmly situated in the city’s long and diverse history. NEH funding supports this work—as does the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities—and moreover ensures that people throughout the nation can benefit from the best of it.
Thumbnail image: Madame John’s Legacy, and eighteenth-century French colonial home in New Orleans’s French Quarter. Image courtesy of the Louisiana State Museum.
In text image: PRIME TIME Family Reading brings literacy programs to families across the state and country. Image courtesy of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.