The humanities are about who we are and how we fit together.
There couldn’t be a more important time to talk about why the humanities matter. As we’ve said here before, the humanities are critical to civic discourse, community building, local identity, regional culture, and democracy.
What is the Wisconsin Humanities Council’s role in this? If the National Endowment for the Humanities is cut from the Federal budget, as has been proposed, the WHC would longer exist. If that happens, what will Wisconsin lose?
Or to put it another way, what is the real impact of the public humanities in Wisconsin? What strikes us most is how, like pebbles skipped across a pond, the community projects we support have many ripples.
Each WHC grant and every event we hold sets into motion untold numbers of creative ideas and personal connections, crossing through local and regional networks and touching every Wisconsinite.
Some Stories from Your District
In District 1: The Irish in Janesville, a project of the Rock County Historical Society, not only used a matching grant to help connect thousands of Rock County residents to their Irish heritage, the project also helped RCHS build a new model for collecting family and organizational histories. This institutional support resulted in strategic partnerships with business and other community groups that are growing the capacity of the historical society.
In District 2: Telling Stories II – Building Community was a year-long project of Orchard Ridge Elementary in Madison that was awarded a WHC grant. The multi-disciplinary project was woven into the curriculum to encourage the exploration of stories of family, heritage, life, work, triumphs and struggles. It brought adult family members into the schools for performances, workshops and storytelling to help students connect to their heritage, and to help families connect to the school community.
In District 3: Hear, Here! is a public documentary project about downtown La Crosse that was funded with a WHC grant. It has already touched more than 11,000 people from around the corner and the world. Signs alert people to use their mobile phones to make calls and hear real people share their personal stories about that particular location. People can add stories so that the curated collection continues to grow. The signs will remain posted into the future to continue to transform the smallest building or non-descript corner into a memorable space and place.
In District 4: For the past five years WHC grants have supported the Untold Stories project launched by Rachel Monaco-Wilcox at Mount Mary University. This unique program uses the humanities to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking regain their voices. Participants look to works of literature from different eras and cultures to frame their personal stories and write about them in a facilitated workshop. A partnership with Milwaukee’s Arts@Large program connects at-risk youth with survivors’ written testimonials. The students respond through art, under the guidance of art therapists and art instructors, and exhibit their artwork at the end of the year. Untold Stories workshop participants credit the program with giving them back their voices, reassuring them that they aren’t alone, and enabling them to move on from their experiences. Some have gone on to write books, give TED talks, found new initiatives, earn degrees and more.
In District 5: Each February America’s Black Holocaust Museum invites the greater Milwaukee community to its Founder’s Day Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation. This year’s program, supported with a grant from the WHC, advanced understanding of America’s racial past and how to move into a more just and peaceful future. The program focused on emerging strategies that acknowledge and heal racial trauma, including how museums and other institutions play in the work of memory and racial healing.
In District 6: WHC provided matching funds for the Neenah Historical Society to create the exhibit and program, “When Neenah Came Marching Home” in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The exhibit asked the more than 3,000 visitors to remember Neenah’s citizens who served heroically and consider how their struggles to readjust to civilian life compares to the issues faced by today’s returning soldiers. Drawing on the experiences of local residents, the exhibit explored issues of post-traumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol addiction, permanent physical disability, and high unemployment as a result of combat for returning veterans.
In District 7: My War: Wartime Photographs by Vietnam Veterans was made possible with a WHC grant to the Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans Memorial Project (The Highground). This powerful exhibit of personal snapshots shares veterans’ personal stories and war experiences received national attention and drew many new visitors to the memorial park in Neillsville. The exhibition encouraged feedback and reflections from visitors. Many veterans reported that My War validated their service like nothing else had. The exhibit is now travelling the state.
In District 8: WHC grants have served many of the museums in this region with funds for exhibits, programming, and to assist in partnerships. For example, The History Museum at the Castle in Appleton drew more than 30,000 people to explore the WHC-funded exhibition called “Appleton’s African American and Civil Rights History.” The WHC also funded the current new exhibit about the working lives of mental health care workers called “Asylum: Out of the Shadows.” The Neville Public Museum in Green Bay produced “Who Are the Hmong” and partnered with other groups to explore the causes and impacts of immigration and refugees with WHC funding. Their current exhibition, “Alice in Dairyland,” received a WHC grant to highlight the regional agricultural history and current trends with a tagline “Agriculture Unites Us All.” Recently, the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay has revived its extremely popular Pullman Porters exhibit, funded by WHC, as part of a program called “A Day in the Life” for students. A WHC grant was awarded to support this hands-on, interactive walk through 1860s history in the county, the state and the region.
We are proud of these projects. People tell us all the time how important WHC funding, programming and services are to their communities. We know that for every WHC dollar, an average of three dollars in local match is leveraged. And we know that the WHC is the only grant program in the state devoted to funding public humanities projects.
We want to hear your stories. Why does the WHC matter to your community?
Thank you for contacting your member of Congress to ask for their support for full funding of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Federal/State Partnership, which funds the Wisconsin Humanities Council. To find your representative, click here.
Like what you are reading? Humanities Booyah is the only online magazine dedicated to the public humanities in Wisconsin. Subscribe today and don’t ever miss an article!
Be a friend of the public humanities!
LIKE us on Facebook
FOLLOW us on Twitter
DONATE to the WHC
and SHARE this article!