The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.
Established in 1972 as an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Wisconsin Humanities Council is supported by federal, state, and private funds. Through its own programs and through grants to other organizations, the WHC supports public programs that engage the people of Wisconsin in the exploration of human cultures, ideas, and values.
To accomplish its mission, the Council awards grants to support programs in libraries, museums, universities, historical societies, schools, and other nonprofit settings throughout the state. The WHC also creates programs, partnerships, and publications to fulfill its mission. These include the Wisconsin Book Festival, Wisconsin: Making it Home, a speakers bureau, book discussion series, Museum on Main Street tours, and a quarterly publication called ON.
In 1970, the NEH created state affiliates in order to foster local and statewide public humanities programs and to help state residents discuss current public issues from the perspective of the humanities. Today, a mosaic of fifty-six state humanities councils exists (in fifty states, three territories, two commonwealths, and the District of Columbia). State humanities councils are nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations governed by volunteer boards drawn from every geographic part of the areas they serve. Councils receive federal funding from the NEH, which they use to leverage state, individual, corporate, and foundation support at the local level. State councils also extend their federal dollars by forming partnerships with both state and local organizations—the WHC, for example, operates through the University of Wisconsin–Extension—and in doing so help to build a stronger network among cultural institutions.
The WHC’s twenty-five volunteer board members hail from all parts of the state. The Council seeks members whose experience, training, interests, skills, cultural background, and community ties bring diversity, energy, and expertise to its program. Approximately half of the Council's membership is drawn from the academic community and half from the community at large. New members are ordinarily elected to three-year terms at the Council's February meeting, and assume office in June.
What are the humanities?
The humanities are the evolving ideas and the accumulated knowledge about human history and culture that help us make sense of our lives and encourage us to think imaginatively and critically about the world. Through engagement with the humanities, we develop skills of inquiry, observation, analysis, reflection, and communication. The humanities inspire curiosity and vision, and offer the means by which to consider how and why humans think and act as we do.
It can be helpful to think of the humanities in terms of the academic disciplines that they typically include. Those are:
- cultural anthropology
- the history, theory, and criticism of the arts
- ethnic studies
- religious studies
- women's studies
- those aspects of the social sciences that employ historical or philosophical approaches.