Humanities in Place

a person looking on at a public sculpture resembling a giant hair pick

Humanities in Place supports a fuller, more complex telling of American histories and lived experiences by deepening the range of how and where our stories are told and by bringing a wider variety of voices into the public dialogue. 

Working with media, heritage and public spaces, history museums and other institutions, and conveners of shared experiences—including the digital or ephemeral—we strive to expand the public expression of the histories that have made us and the values we hold.

Our program works across and within diverse communities, encouraging bold, innovative rethinking of past practice, as well as visionary new approaches for how to collectively understand, uplift, and celebrate more complete stories about who we are. 

How We Do This  

Three interconnected strategies guide Mellon’s Humanities in Place grantmaking:

Strategy 1: Resource projects, initiatives, and infrastructure to better identify, document, create, and care for our places; and support innovative ideas and actions that design a more just present and future landscape—in community with one another and in society.
For people of every age and geography, the opportunity to learn is critical to a healthy society. But just as important as the education itself is the how and where it happens. Our places—natural and built alike—hold the potential to reflect our shared values, actively build community, and make more immediate today’s urgent areas of inquiry. With that potential in mind, we support projects—especially those tied to underacknowledged or marginalized stories—that put our places front and center, while allowing for broad participation, so that we can understand and care for them in service of a more just world.

Strategy 2: Catalyze initiatives and programs that support the evolution and sustainability of institutions (e.g., civic, cultural, educational, or community) focused on advancing social justice through place-based approaches.
While museums, buildings, and landscapes, have long been woven through our cultural fabric, a group of institutions dedicated to their documentation, evaluation, and evolution are only now nascent. Today, whether it brings Indigenous learning into park spaces or builds multi-disciplinary collaborations to restore and preserve historically neglected cultural sites across diverse communities, we support the institutions committed to evolving the field, especially through racial, social, and economic justice lenses.

Strategy 3: Support projects and programs with a place-based focus that promote greater access, interaction, and exchange of stories and experiences toward a fuller appreciation and understanding of a wider variety of our histories, narratives, and expression.
Even when places contain rich cultural value or important historical significance, they aren’t always easy to access or understand, and they often fall short prompting meaningful exchange—the stakes are high when those very places can help tell a fuller story of who we are, what has been erased, and where we might be headed. Mellon believes in the value of place-based humanities and supports creative projects that tap into the power of participatory multi-media, performance, and technology to make places accessible for community members and promote a fuller appreciation of our complex, shared identity. 

Top photo: Courtesy of Hank Willis Thomas and Mural Arts Philadelphia.