Beginning in 2016, the Newberry will launch a multi-year schedule of large, themed, interdisciplinary research projects and affiliated public programming to explore intensively subjects in the humanities that have both a substantial historical legacy and an enduring role to play in the future development of human culture.
The themes will grow out of the strengths of the Newberry’s collection, its staff expertise, and the scope of its research and program centers. Scheduled for exploration beginning in 2016 is the subject of religious change in the Western world since the sixteenth century, to be followed with an investigation of the question “What is the Midwest?” beginning in 2018. The first five years of this initiative are made possible by a grant of $1.16 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The development of each theme will involve the various departments within the Newberry, making use of our collection’s ongoing development, our cataloging and conservation work, fellowships program, free public exhibitions and lectures, our longstanding program of adult education seminars, our conferences and symposia, teacher professional development programs, and digital resources.
This institutional coordination will allow Newberry staff to collaborate more effectively across departments and disciplines. It will also stimulate more engagement between professional scholars and the public, fostering deeper and more frequent conversations that begin in the Newberry’s classrooms and lecture halls and continue in the exhibition galleries and online—and vice versa.
“With this generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Newberry will draw upon the full range of our programs and services to support exploration of subjects that possess great cultural interest and influence. And we will do so with a breadth and depth of effort that would otherwise be impossible,” says Newberry President David Spadafora. “By linking our scholarly research activities and our programs for the general public more closely together, we intend to make the methods and the results of humanities research more accessible. Doing so has become especially significant in an era when the findings of science and its technological consequences dominate the news and often stand at the center of our culture.”
In addition to programs attended in person, the Newberry will develop and offer digital platforms and communications tools designed to engage public users more deeply with the topics at hand, and in some cases involve them in the actual creation of digital products. A recent example is the Newberry’s crowdsourced transcription of handwritten Civil War letters, which has enabled web visitors to do the transcribing themselves.
The Newberry will announce further details regarding our schedule of topics and related programming in the coming months.