The Legacy of the NEH

By Danielle Jones ’18

On March 16th, 2017, the Trump Administration released the first draft of their proposed 2018 Congressional budget. Many people were focused on the massive cuts to the EPA, but another troubling cut that the original budget proposed was the 12% cuts to the Interior Departments. Even more worrying for those of us in the Humanities, the budget also called for the complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. After the government’s hiring freeze, a cut to programs like the NEH was the last thing that museums and historical sites wanted to hear.

The NEH was founded in 1965, and lauds itself as one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. The grants given by the NEH typically go to museums, archives, colleges, public television and radio stations, libraries, and to individual scholars. Some famous NEH programs include Ken Burns’ The Civil War and the “Save Our American Treasures” program by the National Museum of African American History and Culture which collects and preserves artifacts from African American communities, including a set of child’s slave cuffs and Harriet Tubman’s bible. Museums as large as the Smithsonian receive NEH grants, as well as small museums and historical sites. The NEH also provides grants and awards to educators in order to strengthen education in schools and colleges, to facilitate research and scholarship, and to strengthen the humanities as a whole. Virtually every state and 6 territories have been touched by NEH grants. The money given helps further American education and to foster education and enlightened discussions about the humanities in the U.S.

The proposed budget cuts would have had lasting impacts across the humanities field. Many of the institutions who receive NEH funding would not be able to support all the programs they run without the NEH, and there are many other institutions who would cease to function without NEH and other federal funding. Thus, the potential loss of funds caused a massive outcry by many in the humanities. The loss of NEH funding could lead to a significant decrease in the available jobs in humanities industry, and many academics would not be able to continue to support original research necessary to furthering their respective fields.

On May 1st, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill to fund the federal government for the current fiscal year ending September 30, 2017. This bill provided some hope for those in the Humanities; the bill calls for $150 million each for both the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities. This is a $2 million increase from the fiscal 2016 year. While this increase is of great benefit to the Endowments, it does not necessarily mean that the 2018 budget is going to keep the Endowments at the same level. As students, historians, and people who love the humanities, we must continue to work to show people the importance of programs like the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Sources:

About the NEH.” National Endowment for the Humanities. Accessed May 02, 2017.

Farrington, Dana. “Read President Trump’s Budget Blueprint.” NPR. March 16, 2017. Accessed May 02, 2017.

Tableau Public. March 20, 2017. Accessed May 02, 2017.

Cascone, Sarah. “Despite Trump, NEA Lives to See Another Day as Congress Finalizes 2017 Budget.” Artnet News. May 01, 2017. Accessed May 02, 2017.

Kaplan, Thomas, and Matt Flegenheimer. “Bipartisan Agreement Reached to Fund Government Through September.” New York Times. April 30, 2017. Accessed May 02, 2017.

U.S. Cong. House. Committee on Appropriations. Comprehensive Government Funding Bill. By Rodney Frelinghuysen. 115 Cong. 244.

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