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15 projects in Mass. awarded National Endowment for the Humanities grants; total is over $3.4 million

Manuscript diary by Mary Allen Boyd, Boston, November 1875.American Antiquarian Society

On Thanksgiving Day 1875, 13-year-old Mary Allen Boyd of Boston wrote in her diary that she and her friends had mounted their own production of “Cinderella,” casting each other in different roles and using sheets and string to craft a stage curtain.

“At last, all was ready,” Boyd wrote. “I sat crying by the fireplace and Will commenced pulling up the curtain; he got it up two inches when — the string broke. The proud sisters came in as soon as the curtain was fixed and scolded Cinderella for some time; then they go to the ball.”

Boyd’s diary, which opens a window into a young girl’s life nearly 150 years ago, is one of the hundreds of child-authored texts from the 19th century housed at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester that will now be categorized and digitized, thanks to a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities, which handed out more than $3.4 million in grants to projects around Massachusetts last month.

“Our project is designed to amplify those children’s voices, so that researchers, but also teachers and students and anybody who’s interested in children in the past, can hear children through their own voices,” said Scott Casper, president of the society. The 286 documents will include diaries, manuscript periodicals, and amateur-printed newspapers, Casper said. Thirty-six of the documents come from Massachusetts.


“For much of the 19th century, people who were 18 years old or younger constituted as much as a quarter to a third of the population,” said Casper. “If we don’t understand what people under 18 experienced through their own words, we are missing the stories of a significant portion of the American population.”

The 15 grants will flow to projects around the state, funding everything from documentary films to research on books and renovations of a museum.


In Gloucester, a matching grant will help fund the cost of renovation at the Cape Ann Museum, treating visitors to an updated experience at the historic site, said Oliver Barker, the museum’s director.

“This grant is going to be so instrumental in terms of ... the visitor experience,” said Barker.

The museum, Barker said, has committed to raising substantial matching funds. Along with addressing some maintenance issues, the funds will be used to “reinterpret galleries and hopefully provide inviting and interactive objects and opportunities for people,” he said.

For Sari Altschuler at Northeastern University in Boston, the grant will help build a “half-major” in the digital health humanities, according to the NEH. A half-major, Altschuler said, is meant to be combined with another major.

“What the grant does is it basically allows us to create a suite of classes drawing on the expertise of faculty members in four colleges across the university,” said Altschuler, an associate professor of English and founding director of the health, humanities, and society minor and initiative.

In Becket, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival received a grant to digitize 3,336 videos featuring performances, oral histories, lectures, and master classes, the NEH said.

“The dance field is often looked upon as something that is very ephemeral,” said Norton Owen, director of preservation at Jacob’s Pillow. “It’s happening in the moment and then it’s gone.”

The grant “will allow us to preserve our history for future generations,” said Owen.

The materials to be digitized date from 1992 to 2010 and were originally recorded using analog video. Another part of the proposal, he said, is to hire a digital archivist.


Here’s a full list of all the grant winners in Massachusetts:


Anne Kerth

  • $6,000 stipend
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Project Title: A Labor History of African American Artisans in Nineteenth-Century South Carolina
  • Project Description: Writing and revision leading to a history of Black artisans in South Carolina during the nineteenth century.


Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Inc.

  • $350,000
  • Project Director: Norton Owen
  • Project Title: Digitization of the Moving Image Collection
  • Project Description: Digitization and updated catalog records for 3,336 audiovisual materials featuring performances, oral histories, lectures, and master classes from the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival from 1992 through 2010.


Center for Independent Documentary Inc.

  • $75,000
  • Project Director: Yuriko Romer
  • Project Title: Diamond Diplomacy
  • Project Description: Planning for an hour-long documentary on U.S.-Japanese relations through the prism of baseball.

Center for Independent Documentary Inc.

  • $550,000
  • Project Director: Marco Williams
  • Project Title: Eyes on the Prize Reclaimed
  • Project Description: Production of a documentary film about the history and legacy of Eyes on the Prize, the landmark public television series about the civil rights movement.

Center for Independent Documentary Inc.

  • $291,480
  • Project Director: Augusta Palmer
  • Project Title: The Blues Society
  • Project Description: Post-production of a film exploring the legacy of the Memphis Country Blues Festival and development of a website offering additional resources and curriculum materials.

Massachusetts Historical Society

  • Outright: $251,000, Matching grant: $20,000
  • Project Director: Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai
  • Project Title: Long-Term Fellowships at the Massachusetts Historical Society Project
  • Description: 18 months of stipend support (2 fellowships) per year for three years and a contribution to defray costs associated with the selection of fellows.

Northeastern University

  • $149,673
  • Project Director: Sari Altschuler
  • Project Title: Humanities and the Digital Future of Health and Healthcare
  • Project Description: A three-year project to implement a half major in digital health humanities.

Yoon Sun Yang

  • $6,000 stipend
  • Trustees of Boston University
  • Project Title: Early Twentieth-Century Korean Migrant Literature between Two Empires
  • Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on literature by Koreans who migrated from Japan to the United States in the early twentieth century, and their blending of literary and cultural traditions from both sides of the Pacific.


Matylda Figlerowicz

  • $6,000 stipend
  • Harvard University
  • Project Title: Becoming Lady Light: The Revolutions of Nahua Intellectual and Model Luz Jiménez
  • Project Description: Research leading to an intellectual biography of Luz Jiménez (1897– 1965), an indigenous model to artists and informant to anthropologists working in post-revolutionary Mexico.


Cape Ann Museum Inc.

  • $750,000 matching grant
  • Project Director: Oliver Barker
  • Project Title: Renovation and Upgrade of the Pleasant Street Campus
  • Project Description: Modernization and renovation to include improved climate control, lighting, visitor accessibility improvements, and an expanded gallery space at the Cape Ann Museum, located in Gloucester.


Filmmakers Collaborative Inc.

  • $500,000
  • Project Director: Jon Dunham
  • Project Title: The Library of Darkness
  • Project Description: Production of a sixty-minute documentary film following a team of computer scientists as they image 2,000-year-old papyrus scrolls from Herculaneum.


Liza Oliver

  • $6,000 stipend
  • Wellesley College
  • Project Title: Empire of Hunger: Representing Famine, Land, and Labor in Colonial India
  • Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on the role that documentary photographs taken during episodes of famine in nineteenth-century India played in furthering the policies of the colonial government and in shaping popular opinion.


Laura Martin

  • $6,000 stipend
  • Williams College
  • Project Title: “The War Against Weeds:” How Hormonal Herbicides Reshaped the Global Environment
  • Project Description: Archival research leading to a book on the history of how hormonal herbicides were produced, promoted, used, and eventually came to be understood as threats to human health.


American Antiquarian Society

  • $338,911
  • Project Director: Lauren Hewes
  • Project Title: Historic Children’s Voices, 1799–1899
  • Project Description: Cataloging and digitizing 286 child-authored texts from the nineteenth century, ranging from diaries to amateur printed newspapers. The materials would be made available online along with research and curricular guides for the collection and featured in a two-day scholarly symposium and a virtual public program.

College of the Holy Cross

  • $100,000
  • Project Director: Amanda Luyster
  • Project Title: The Crusades and the Chertsey Combat Tiles: A Medieval Masterpiece Reconstructed
  • Project Description: Implementation for a temporary, single-site exhibition in 2023 exploring the history of the thirteenth-century Chertsey Abbey floor tiles in the context of war and cultural exchange of the Crusades.

Matt Yan can be reached at matt.yan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @matt_yan12.