Humanities for All: Publicly-Engaged Humanities Database for History Organizations

A newly-launched database by the National Humanities Alliance, Humanities for All helps showcase how institutions of higher education have partnered with local cultural organizations throughout the United States to advance publicly-engaged humanities projects. These projects highlight the efforts of museums, historical societies, preservation groups, state and local agencies, and many more to position themselves as critical community assets and implement new ways of telling stories about the past. As these partnerships and projects demonstrate, “relevance” continues to constitute a critical area of focus for history organizations, and they are forging new partnerships and working directly with community groups to connect history to contemporary challenges and questions. As the History Relevance initiative points out, many organizations are embracing the idea that history has a greater impact when it connects the past with “the people, events, places, stories, and ideas that are important and meaningful to communities, people, and audiences today.”

The more than 1,400 entries in the Humanities for All database provide rich examples of how publicly-oriented humanities projects enrich life in the U.S.: building and strengthening communities; creating innovative and practical learning experiences for students and people of all ages and backgrounds; and broadening our understanding of ourselves, our nation, and our world.  Each of the projects listed are built upon partnerships between colleges and universities and outside organizations, collectively illustrating the broad impact of the humanities.

AASLH has highlighted the value of collaboration between public history organizations and institutions of higher education in the past. Humanities for All helps further demonstrate that these types of undertakings deepen the public’s engagement with and appreciation of the humanities while providing meaningful and practical learning experiences that prepare students for the workforce.

The Humanities for All database can be searched and filtered to find projects that might serve as an inspiration for you and your organization. Many of the projects included in the database provide real-world examples of how history organizations around the country are emphasizing history’s relevance. For example, the University of California-Riverside worked with the California Citrus State Historic Park, along with several other organizations, to “tell a broader, more inclusive, and more accurate history of the state’s most beloved crop: citrus.” The resultant “Relevancy & History Project” helped better include the experiences and stories of migrants and immigrants in telling the history of citrus in California through community-engaged research, public programs, and interpretive installations.

In Virginia, the Hampton University Black History Club partnered with the City of Hampton History Museum to commemorate the state’s first lunch counter sit-in demonstration. The groups worked together, along with veterans of the sit-in movement, to produce a series of events, including lectures, films, memorial walks, panel discussions, and ultimately, several community conversations about the history, legacy, and future of the Civil Rights Movement in Hampton Roads.

These are just two of the many examples that Humanities for All highlights. Their database features dozens of projects with full profiles, and hundreds of others with thumbnail descriptions. With the option to search and filter by type of community partner (historic site or society, museum, state or national park, etc.), by discipline (including history), and by theme (from immigration to race to rural life to tourism), Humanities for All can serve as a source of inspiration for individuals and organizations working across the historical enterprise. And the project is still growing: the National Humanities Alliance welcomes users to contribute new examples of publicly-engaged humanities work in the U.S. via the website’s submissions portal.

How can Humanities for All inform your case-making and practice? How might you use the database?

Interested in learning more? AASLH will hold an informational webinar with Daniel Fisher of the National Humanities Alliance and the project directors of “These Words: A Century of Printing, Writing, and Reading in Boston’s Chinese Community,” Jessica Wong Camhi (Chinese Historical Society of New England) and Diane O’Donoghue (Tufts University and Brown University) on October 17. Register here.