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7 Massachusetts projects awarded National Endowment for the Humanities grants

New grant funding for seven Massachusetts-based projects will help protect historic works of art, create new editions of centuries-old books, and build a database that can reveal the history of South Asian paintings through paint pigments.

The funding comes from $30.9 million in grants that were announced by The National Endowment for the Humanities on Jan. 14.

Nationwide, the grants support 188 projects in 45 states and the District of Columbia, and help preserve important works of art, literature, and history with modern technology and new resources.

Jinah Kim, a Harvard professor of the history of art and architecture, is using this grant money to develop an online database.


Kim’s database can determine the age of a South Asian paintings and where they were created based on the pigments used to make them. While similar databases exist, this is the first one that primarily compiles data from South Asia and includes extensive historical research, geography, and mapping.

Kim said the pilot version of the database wouldn’t be possible without the $99,017 grant she received from the NEH.

“(NEH’s grant program) is important because it is one of the very few funding sources that support advancement in scholarship in the humanities,” Kim said.

Three times a year, NEH provides grants to humanities projects that are selected through a competitive application round and peer review system.

The Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, a non-profit that assists cultural institutions in Northeast, was awarded the largest grant of the Massachusetts winners.

The center will use its $350,000 grant from NEH to provide cultural institutions across the Northeast with disaster assistance, trainings and seminars, and assistance in preserving their collections.

“The grant award allows Preservation Services to keep its services affordable and to offer some for free or at a discount, and also to develop new services and training programs based on our clients’ needs,” said Ann Marie Willer, NEDCC director of preservation services.


At the Boston Athenaeum, a $182,500 grant will help make a conservation lab there more equipped to protect the historic works it has housed since the early 19th century.

The grant will buy new supplies for the lab and allow the Athenaeum to hire a new full-time staff member who will specialize in conserving fine art and photographs.

“Boston’s status as a vibrant center for culture, history, literature, and art—historically and today—is central to its identity as a city, and a significant draw for residents and visitors,” said Bridget Keane, chief development officer for the Athenaeum.

NEH grants will also fund projects by Massachusetts professors.

Ioannis Evrigenis, a political science professor at Tufts University, was awarded $60,000 to edit, research, and write annotations for a new edition of the 1576 book, “The Six Bookes of a Commonweale,” written by French philosopher Jean Bodin.

Associate Professor of French Helene Bilis at Wellesley College received $35,000 to translate and prepare a digital edition of “La Princesse de Clèves” by Marie-Madeleine de Lafayette during a Spring 2020 sabbatical.

At Harvard, Hannah Marcus, an assistant professor of the history of science, will receive a $30,000 grant to write and research a book on the experiences of elderly people in early modern Europe.

NEH awarded Jessica Maier, an associate professor of art history at Mount Holyoke College, $60,000 to prepare a book on how prints of maps and battles acted as an early form of news reports in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.


“The NEH is an absolutely critical resource that makes projects like mine viable on a basic level, projects that might seem obscure or arcane to the uninitiated but that potentially have so much to teach us about our society, past and present,” said Maier.

Caroline Enos can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.