The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded the Newberry $325,000—plus an additional $150,000 in matching grants—to support the library's fellowship program over the next three years.
The Newberry's program is one of the most competitive in the country; this past academic year, the Newberry selected just 6% of the long-term fellowship applications submitted by scholars interested in pursuing their research at the library. With this competitiveness in mind, the NEH increased its support of the program by 50% over its previous three-year grant, last awarded in 2014. The new grant will enable the Newberry to welcome more scholars into its community of learning, providing them with the resources for finding important historical documents and sharing their discoveries through publications, digital projects, and public lectures.
"The Newberry’s fellowship program consistently results in ground-breaking scholarship because it offers long-term funding for outstanding humanities scholars to work uninterrupted in a world-class collection, surrounded by a supportive community of other scholars and staff," said Brad Hunt, the Newberry's Vice President for Research and Academic Programs. "In exploring our collection and exchanging ideas with colleagues and library staff, Newberry fellows multiply their questions, raise their expectations, and come away with fresh interpretations of history, literature, and a variety of other subject areas."
Again and again, Newberry-NEH long-term fellows have noted the indispensable benefits of being afforded both the time to write and the ability to partake in the spirit of interdisciplinary inquiry animating the Newberry's mission.
"My NEH Fellowship has had a wide-reaching impact on my teaching, writing, and scholarship,"said Susan Eva O’Donovan, a Newberry Fellow in 2009. "Because of my fellowship year, and all those hours I spent leafing through old books and blurry microfilm, I have something to say, and a way to say it.”
This round of NEH grants comes just weeks after the Trump Administration released a budget proposal calling for the elimination of the NEH, along with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. While the administration’s proposal does not actually set federal funding levels, it has prompted proponents of the agencies to articulate anew their social and cultural impact.
"What the NEH manages to accomplish with a mere .0037% share of the federal budget is astounding," said Newberry President David Spadafora. "Its competitive grant funding and staff expertise make it possible for the Newberry and other educational and research organizations throughout the country to multiply the power of the cultural heritage we preserve and make accessible. The results of this public-private partnership demonstrate the capacity of the humanities to enrich individuals' lives and help us better understand our past, present, and future."
In addition to supporting the Newberry's fellowship program, the NEH has helped make possible a range of other activities at the library, including summer institutes that provide advanced training for teachers and university faculty, processing projects that make archival collections more accessible to readers, and free public programs that engage audiences in conversations with leading humanities thinkers and scholars.