Bridging the Relevance Gap: The State Humanities Council as a Link between the Academy and the Public
Dr. Stanley Romanstein.
“To the world outside of education and academe, the humanities seem at best ephemeral, and at worst esoteric. They appear to be of less significance and practical ‘value’ than the domains of economics, technology and science.” (from the call to the Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities)
As the call to this conference suggests, humanists often feel misunderstood and underappreciated, our work overshadowed by the sciences and technology, eclipsed by the arts, and misunderstood by the public. We talk about the importance of conveying the benefits of the humanities to the public but, lacking a dependable means by which to reach that public, we retreat into the safety of the academy.
In the United States there is a vital but often underutilized bridge between the academy and the public: the state humanities council. Each of the states and U.S. territories has a state humanities council, an extension of the federal government’s National Endowment for the Humanities. These councils occupy the vast middle ground between the academy and the public, promoting research and scholarship, sponsoring informed dialogue on significant public policy issues, and creating events which bring the humanities firmly into the public arena. State councils are uniquely positioned to talk about the humanities in easily understood language, to encourage a broad understanding of the humanities, and to promote the manifold benefits the humanities offer to contemporary society.
How do humanists from within the academy and state councils work together most effectively and to their mutual benefit? How might other countries adapt the United States’ model to meet their own challenges and opportunities?
This paper will highlight exemplary partnerships between state humanities councils and academe and encourage participants to consider a broad range of possibilities for bringing the humanities to the public.
Dr. Stanley Romanstein (United States)
President and CEO
Minnesota Humanities Commission
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)