How can we build support for publicly engaged humanities work at our universities and colleges?
Before kicking off the 2019 National Humanities Conference in Honolulu, we hosted a pre-conference workshop to address this question with over 100 humanities scholars, administrators, and association leaders.
Partnership drives many of the publicly engaged humanities initiatives collected in NHA’s Humanities for All database. These initiatives drawn from across the country bring scholars and students together with a wide variety of partners, including libraries, K–12 schools, community organizations and centers, and individual community members. In all cases, they draw on shared knowledge and resources to advance particular academic and public objectives. They are able to do more—and better—by working together.
Over the last two years, our Humanities for All initiative has worked to document and promote publicly engaged humanities research, teaching, preservation, and programming in U.S. higher education. The initiative brings together over 1,500 examples, showcasing the range of humanities work conducted with and for communities by scholars at universities, colleges, and scholarly societies across the United States.
Through our Humanities for All initiative, we have been working to support publicly engaged scholarship, cognizant of all the ways their work enriches academic and community life. While publicly engaged scholarship has proliferated, there remains concern among scholars about how this work is credited to them in the context of the three traditional expectations for faculty promotion and tenure in the humanities: research, teaching, and service. With this in mind, we want to support scholars in publishing on their work and have been working to showcase how publicly engaged work and scholarship can go hand in hand. To that end, we are delighted to partner with Routledge, Taylor & Francis to release Publishing and the Publicly Engaged Humanities: a free-access collection of recent articles featuring publicly engaged humanities work.
One of the great benefits of leading the Humanities for All initiative is having the opportunity to meet with NHA members to introduce them to the website and to learn more about their publicly engaged work. Over three days in the Research Triangle in North Carolina, I had the opportunity to learn from NHA members at the National Humanities Center, Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In Columbus, Georgia, Columbus State University is helping communities connect with their culture and their surroundings. In Putnam County, Georgia, the University of Georgia is working with K-12 teachers and students to explore the region's rich literary history. On March 8, the scholars behind these and other publicly engaged humanities initiatives from across Georgia and the Southeast gathered for the Georgia Humanities Symposium in Athens.
On May 15, 2019, Remembering Emmett Till by Dave Tell of the University of Kansas will be published by the University of Chicago Press. The book is the product of both publicly engaged scholarship—the Emmett Till Memory Project (ETMP)—and years of research and writing supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Tell’s experience shows how public engagement and publishing can go hand in hand.
At the University of Illinois at Chicago, Ömür Harmanşah asks his students to review the Humanities for All website in his “The Politics of Archaeology and Heritage in the Middle East” course. The goal is to provide an overview of the publicly engaged humanities and to reflect on the role of the humanities in addressing pressing global issues. At the University of Pittsburgh, Dan Kubis assigns the Humanities for All website in his “Public Humanities Seminar.” Exploration of the site served as the basis for a virtual meeting with NHA Deputy Director Beatrice Gurwitz and Humanities for All Project Director Daniel Fisher, discussing publicly engaged humanities work and how to make the case for the humanities in higher education.