Public humanities is the work of engaging diverse publics in reflecting on heritage, traditions, and history, and the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of civic and cultural life.[1][2] Public humanities is often practiced within federal, state, nonprofit and community-based cultural organizations that engage people in conversations, facilitate and present lectures, exhibitions, performances and other programs for the general public on topics such as history, philosophy, popular culture and the arts.[3][4] Public Humanities also exists within universities, as a collaborative enterprise between communities and faculty, staff, and students.[5]

Public humanities projects include exhibitions and programming related to historic preservation, oral history, archives, material culture, public art, cultural heritage, and cultural policy.[6][7][8] The National Endowment for the Humanities notes that public humanities projects it has supported in the past include "interpretation at historic sites, television and radio productions, museum exhibitions, podcasts, short videos, digital games, websites, mobile apps, and other digital media."[9] Many practitioners of public humanities are invested in ensuring the accessibility and relevance of the humanities to the general public or community groups.

The American Council of Learned Societies' National Task Force on Scholarship and the Public Humanities suggests that the nature of public humanities work is to teach the public the findings of academic scholarship: it sees "scholarship and the public humanities not as two distinct spheres but as parts of a single process, the process of taking private insight, testing it, and turning it into public knowledge."[10] Others, such as former museum director Nina Simon and Harvard professor Doris Sommer, suggest a more balanced understanding of the ways in which history, heritage, and culture are shared between the academy and the public.[11][12] These approaches draw on the notion of shared historical authority.[13]

Subfields of the public humanities include public history, public sociology, public folklore, public anthropology, public philosophy, historic preservation, museum studies, museum education, cultural heritage management, community archaeology, public art, and public science.[14]

Programs in Public Humanities

Several universities have established programs in the public humanities (or have otherwise expressed commitments to public humanities via the creation of centers, degrees, or certificate programs with investments in various forms of "public" work).[15] Programs include:


  1. ^ "Goals of the Publicly Engaged Humanities". Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  2. ^ "Finding the roots of civic engagement in the public humanities | National Council on Public History". Retrieved 2022-12-07.
  3. ^ "Humanities Indicators Project Explores the Public Humanities". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  4. ^ "Humanities Councils – The Inclusive Historian's Handbook". Retrieved 2022-12-07.
  5. ^ Julie Ellison, “The New Public Humanists,” PMLA 128, no. 2 (2013): 289–98.
  6. ^ Bridget Draxler and Danielle Spratt, Engaging the Age of Jane Austen: Public Humanities in Practice (Iowa City: University Of Iowa Press, 2019).
  7. ^ Ned Kaufman, Place, Race, and Story : Essays on the Past and Future of Historic Preservation (New York: Routledge, 2009).
  8. ^ Amy Lonetree, Decolonizing Museums : Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).
  9. ^ "Division of Public Programs". National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  10. ^ Quay, James; Veninga, James (October 5–7, 1989). Making Connections: The Humanities, Culture and Community. National Task Force on Scholarship and the Public Humanities. Racine, Wisconsin: American Council of Learned Societies. Retrieved 25 Jan 2016. We think it more useful and more accurate to consider scholarship and the public humanities not as two distinct spheres but as parts of a single process, the process of taking private insight, testing it, and turning it into public knowledge.
  11. ^ Nina Simon, The Art of Relevance (Museum 2.0, 2016).
  12. ^ Doris Sommer, The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014).
  13. ^ Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski, eds., Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World (Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011).
  14. ^ "National Council on Public History | About the Field". Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  15. ^ Humanities Indicators, “Humanities in Our Lives: Public Humanities” American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Accessed 10/12/20.
  16. ^ "Graduate Program | Public Humanities | Brown University". Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  17. ^ "Public Humanities Collaborative | College of Arts and Letters | Michigan State University". 2007-06-12. Archived from the original on 2007-06-12. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  18. ^ "Public Humanities Initiative in Graduate Education". Retrieved 2023-03-16.
  19. ^ "Portland State Portland Center for Public Humanities | Welcome". Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  20. ^ "IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute". Retrieved 2023-07-25.
  21. ^ "covid-19 oral history project". Retrieved 2023-07-25.
  22. ^ "The Anthropocenes Network". The Anthropocenes Network. Retrieved 2023-07-25.
  23. ^ "Public Humanities". Retrieved 2020-09-27.
  24. ^ "American Studies, Public Humanities Track, M.A." Rutgers SASN. Retrieved 2020-09-27.
  25. ^ "Public & Applied Humanities | UArizona College of Humanities". Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  26. ^ "Rackham Program in Public Scholarship". Rackham Graduate School: University of Michigan. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  27. ^ "MA Public Humanities - Postgraduate - Interdisciplinary study - Faculty of Arts and Humanities - Faculties - the University of Sheffield". Archived from the original on 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  28. ^ "Public Humanities at Western - Western University". Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  29. ^ "Graduate Exchange | UW-Madison Center for the Humanities". Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  30. ^ "Certificate in Public Scholarship | Simpson Center for the Humanities". Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  31. ^ "Welcome | Public Humanities at Yale". Retrieved 2020-09-27.
  32. ^ "Home Page". Master's Program in the Engaged & Public Humanities. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  33. ^ "Announcing the NEW minor in Public Humanities - American Studies - UMBC". Retrieved 2020-06-06.