If We Fund it, Will You Come? The NEH at AHA18

By the National Endowment for the Humanities Staff

When the American Historical Association gathers for its annual meeting in Washington, DC, the staff of the National Endowment for the Humanities will enjoy home field advantage, like our city’s historically minded Washington Nationals baseball team. Having the meeting in DC allows us to send more than the usual one or two staff members to represent the agency. Several of us will be attending this year to listen to and talk with conference attendees. We hope to have an opportunity to hear from participants about what the endowment is doing right and where we could improve. Are our programs pitched appropriately to your needs or are we sometimes striking out? We’re also there to remind attendees that we are not faceless bureaucrats, but rather historians in our right, keenly interested in supporting the work of other historians as well as figuring out how to share this scholarship with the American people. 

NEH staff hope to hit a grand slam when they attend the AHA’s annual meeting, hosting and attending sessions, scouting for reviewers for grant programs, and sharing targeted information on grant opportunities and NEH programs.

And with so many from Team NEH able to attend this year’s conference, you might say that we’ll be able to cover all of the bases (stay with us, we’re going deep with the baseball analogy here).

This year we are hosting two different sessions featuring information on NEH opportunities. Historians looking to find external support can come to a roundtable including the NEH and other funding agencies. Another session offers opportunities to learn about strategies for becoming involved in and using NEH-funded work beyond receiving a grant—representatives from NEH’s six different divisions and offices will be present! We’ll also be coaching a session in the Getting Started in Digital History workshop, and participating in a discussion on “Finding Funding in an Era of Uncertainty” for the Graduate and Early Career Committee Open Forum.

This meeting also provides us opportunity to highlight the amazing work of our grantees. We are thrilled to moderate a session with three historians (and NEH fellows) on Writing History for the General Reader: A Roundtable with Grantees in the NEH Public Scholar Program. If you’ve ever considered how your scholarship could be positioned for an engaged general audience, please join us for the discussion. Some NEH-funded work ends up on the big screen, and on Friday, we will introduce a screening of the new film, Adios Amor, with a panel discussion to follow.

At the endowment, we often get to witness the early innings of a project, but rarely get be part of the closing moments. So it is a treat (dare we say akin to a box of Cracker Jack?) to be able to hear firsthand about results of NEH-funded initiatives, international partnerships, summer programs, and grants. And if you have participated in a NEH project in any way, such as attending a summer seminar or institute or been a visiting scholar in one of the Fellowship Programs at Independent Research Institutions, flag us down when you see us walking down the hotel hallways and tell us about your experience—we genuinely want to know about your time on an NEH-funded project.

You will find us on deck at the Digital Projects Lightning Round. And for the Dissertation Lightning Rounds, we’ll even play umpire (and timekeeper). When the AHA meets in Washington, we have an opportunity to participate in these fast-paced sessions, and given our own experience with lightning rounds, we can also pitch in as a session chair when asked.

And to step away a moment from the baseball chatter, we also definitely plan to be in attendance for the important Thursday plenary session on New Perspectives on Histories of the Slave Trade. The endowment has a long history of supporting scholarship, education projects, and programs for the American public on this topic and we are proud that several of the session participants have been funded by the NEH at different times during their careers.

Many NEH staff members also are active scholars so if time permits, you’ll find us listening closely and perhaps even asking questions in sessions related to our own research agendas. We are a well-balanced crew with interests in southern history, American religious history, Japanese literary history, the history of American media, political theory and history, and the history of migration. But because we also are responsible for advising applicants with projects from a range of humanities disciplines, time periods, and regions of the world, attending a conference such as the AHA annual meeting allows us to enhance our understanding of the newest research findings or pedagogical approaches in an area that may be far afield from our own scholarly pursuits.

Seeing session participants present their work and engage with the audience also gives us the opportunity to scout for reviewers for our grant programs. Every year, thousands of humanities professionals are called up to the show to serve as NEH peer reviewers. The AHA annual gathering is a prime recruiting ground for NEH staff to identify new people for panel service.

Of course, we all will take a turn or two at bat at the NEH information table. We are champions (sigh . . . one day, Nationals, you will be too) at sharing materials about various NEH activities, programs, and grant opportunities. Please forgive us in advance if we seem to be checking your name badge. We want to be sure that we serve up the programs that might be most appropriate for you. Do you teach at a community college? If so, you should know about the Humanities Initiatives at Community Colleges. Are you a scholar at a Historically Black College or University, Tribal College or University, or Hispanic-Serving Institution seeking time for research and writing? Ask us about the Awards for Faculty programs. If we see that you’re a secondary school teacher, we want to hand you a bookmark about the endowment’s EDSITEment web resource. Working an edition of historical papers? Have you heard about the Scholarly Editions and Translations Grants program? Okay, you probably have as scholarly editors tend to be very on the ball. Affiliated with a museum or historic site? Let us describe the recent changes to the Public Humanities Projects program. We don’t want to leave anyone stranded.

Visiting the information table is also a chance for you to pitch your project idea so that we can identify the most appropriate funding program(s) for you—we can help you find that sweet spot of funding and timing. And of course, everyone who visits the NEH table should leave with an NEH sticker for their laptop or door. So if you see a member of the NEH squad at this year’s annual meeting, please tip your hat and say hello. It will be our pleasure to meet you.

Thank you for your patience with this baseball-inflected post. To learn more about other NEH grants on the history of baseball, explore the NEH Database of Funded Projects.

Visit the National Endowment of the Humanities online at neh.gov.

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