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The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency of the United Statesmarker established by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 ( ) dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. The NEH is located at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. in the Old Post Office.


According to its website, the NEH is "the largest funder of humanities programs in the United States." The endowment accomplishes this mission by providing grants for high-quality humanities projects in four funding areas: preserving and providing access to cultural resources, education, research, and public programs.

NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. The agency is also a base supporter of its network of private, nonprofit affiliates, the 57 humanities councils in the United States. Every summer, NEH hosts undergraduate students from across the country as interns in various departments from the Division of Education to the Office of the Chairman. Each intern is mentored by an NEH staffperson and receives a stipend for ten weeks of full-time work.

The Endowment is directed by a chairman, who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, for a term of four years. Advising the chairman is the National Council on the Humanities, a board of 26 distinguished private citizens who are also appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The National Council members serve staggered six-year terms.

In 1995, Congress considered de-funding the NEH along with the NEA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

On June 3, 2009, President Obama announced that he intended to nominate former Iowa congressman Jim Leach, a Republican, to be the next chairman of the NEH. The Senate confirmed his appointment in August 2009.


"We the People" initiative

The NEH makes certain important programs and texts part of the "We the People" initiative, which is used to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects and programs that explore significant events and themes in our nation's history and which advance knowledge of the principles that define America.


Jefferson Lecture

Since 1972 the NEH has sponsored the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, which it describes as "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities." The Jefferson Lecturer is selected each year by the National Council on the Humanities. The honoree delivers a lecture in Washington, D.C.marker, generally in conjunction with the spring meeting of the Council, and receives an honorarium of $10,000. The stated purpose of the honor is to recognize "an individual who has made significant scholarly contributions in the humanities and who has the ability to communicate the knowledge and wisdom of the humanities in a broadly appealing way."

National Humanities Medal and Charles Frankel Prize

Since 1997 the NEH has awarded the National Humanities Medal, to honor achievement in American understanding of, engagement with, or access to the humanities. The NEH may make up to 12 such awards each year. From 1988 to 1996 the NEH awarded a similar prize known as the Charles Frankel Prize. Lists of the winners of the National Humanities Medal and Frankel Prize are available at the NEH website.

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