The National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Dialogues on the Experience of War program brings together veterans and civilians to reflect upon powerful literature and art. Over the past year, we have partnered with several recent grantees to document the impact of these programs in order to demonstrate the value of the humanities and the NEH for veterans and their communities. While data collection continues, preliminary results from our pre- and post-program surveys illustrate how these programs equip veterans with humanities resources to process their experiences, share their stories, connect with fellow veterans, and reintegrate into their communities.
In advance of our annual meeting, we’ve published major updates to NEHforAll.org. The site now hosts dozens of new profiles that highlight humanities programs from Hawai’i to Maine. New features, including interactive maps and pop-out facts and figures, highlight the geographic range of the NEH’s impact and data we have collected in recent months.
For many Americans, Veterans Day is an all too rare invitation to consider the sacrifices made by those who have served in the armed forces. Many have noted that the all-volunteer nature of today’s professional military, representing less than 1 percent of Americans, has deepened the civilian-military divide. The fact that a majority of volunteers come from military families only exaggerates the issue; a growing number of Americans have no direct link to the military.
In October we celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month, and this week we join forces with Americans for the Arts to feature the extensive arts and humanities programming that serves our nation’s veterans. In a recent post, we briefly traced the expansion of NEH programs for veterans over the last decade, highlighting the therapeutic benefits of bringing veterans together to discuss literature about war and share their stories. Many of these Dialogues on the Experience of War programs also provide veterans with opportunities to experiment with a wide variety of artistic and literary techniques for expressing themselves.
For over a decade, the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH) and the state and territorial humanities councils funded by the NEH have provided unique services to the veteran community through a variety of interactive, community-building programs throughout the country. The NEH began employing the humanities to address the challenges veterans face through the Literature and Medicine programs held at VA hospitals and the Talking Service program established in partnership with the Great Books Foundation in 2012. In 2014, former NEH Chairman William Adams, a Vietnam veteran, expanded these efforts, launching Standing Together: Humanities and the Experience of War. The initiative increased funding for veteran-related projects across all NEH divisions and established the Dialogues on the Experience of War program, which gathers veterans together around literature, films, and reflective writing exercises that explore the journey from home to the battlefield and back. Since 2016, the NEH has sponsored 47 Dialogues in 21 states. Here at the National Humanities Alliance, as part of our NEH for All initiative, we’re researching past and future Dialogues programs to better understand their impact on veterans and their communities.
In 2016, the University of Maryland (UMD) and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to host a program entitled “100 Years of American Women in Uniform” for women veterans. “100 Years” is the first of NEH’s Dialogues on the Experience of War programs to focus specifically on women veterans. Thirty-eight women veterans from 10 states and Washington, D.C. participated in the program, which spanned four weekends. Participants engaged a wide variety of materials from a century of women’s military history--including diaries, documents, photos, scrapbooks, and artifacts from the Smithsonian collection. They enjoyed expert-led sessions, including several reflective writing exercises. And they learned how to contribute their own and other veterans’ stories to the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.