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Field Museum, Newberry Library to receive grants from National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities on Tuesday announced $22.5 million in grants.

The Field Museum’s Stanley Hall
The Field Museum will receive a $399,357 award grant from the NEH to fund a traveling exhibition. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, the Newberry Library and a Northeastern Illinois University professor were among 224 grant recipients who on Tuesday were awarded substantial funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Grants totaling $22.5 million were awarded to institutions and individuals across the country to fund numerous projects/programs in the field of humanities including the development, production and distribution of radio and television programs, documentary films and podcasts, archival research and curriculum innovation.

Some notable projects funded by the grants will include a two-hour film on author L. Frank Baum and the legacy of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (Baum wrote the classic novel while living in Chicago’s Humboldt Park) and a film documenting the life of singer and civil rights pioneer Marian Anderson, among others.

The Field Museum will receive a $399,357 grant to fund “First Kings of Europe: The Emergence of Hierarchy in the Prehistoric Balkans,” a traveling exhibition that showcases the evolution of hierarchy in prehistoric southeastern Europe.

The Newberry Library — a Chicago educational institution that specializes in independent research — received a $382,500 grant to fund stipends for five fellowships.

“For more than 60 years, the Newberry’s fellowship program has consistently resulted in ground-breaking research because it offers humanities scholars the time they need to work in a world-class collection, surrounded by a supportive community of other scholars and staff,” said Brad Hunt, Newberry Library vice president for research and academic programs. “With long-term funding from the NEH, Newberry fellows dig deep into the past to develop fresh interpretations of history that enrich our collective understanding of who we are as humans.”

“In these somber times, when every individual, community, and organization in America is feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it is a joy to be able to announce new projects that will produce vibrant humanities programs and resources for the reopening of our cultural centers and educational institutions,” said NEH chairman Jon Parrish Peede in a statement announcing the 2020 recipients.

Northeastern Illinois University history professor Joshua Salzmann was awarded a $6,000 grant for “The History of Gun Control in Chicago, 1968–2010,” an academic journal article he plans to write.

“With its terrible gun violence and stringent gun laws, Chicago has long been a flashpoint in the national debate over gun control,” said Salzmann in a statement. “My research will explore the evolution of the city of Chicago’s gun control laws from the eve of the Democratic Convention of 1968 to the Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 ruling on handgun restrictions in McDonald v. Chicago. I hope to shed light on how and why the city’s gun laws came to be as well as to understand their influence on national politics and policies.”

Other Chicago area entities to receive grants include:

  • Northern Illinois University ($348,630) to digitize story papers
  • Joliet’s St. Francis University received a $34,999 humanities connections planning grant to fund a new curriculum of courses for incoming freshmen
  • The Society of Architectural Historians received a $59,982 grant for their collaboration with the University of California’s Riverside and Santa Barbara campuses to preserve 35mm camera slide collections.