Public Humanities Institutes & Centers

In the coming year, the Working Group will hold focused discussions and conduct continued inquiry into the following categories:

Roles of Institutes and Centers within the Field

  • How are public humanities institutes and centers structured?
  • How are these structures determined in relationship to humanities disciplines and the larger university?
  • How do these institutes and centers define ‘public’ and how does this definition shape their work?
  • How can state humanities councils support and expand the public work of university-based centers and institutes?
  • How can this working group also support centers and institutes where the mission is primarily support for research but the directors are working to build in programs that engage with the public?

Relationships among Academic Institutes and Centers and Public Humanities Organizations

  • What creative alliances might be forged between college and university centers and institutes and public cultural organizations such as state humanities councils and museums?
  • What opportunities are available for academic and public humanities organizations to apply for grants or to pursue other collaborative funding opportunities?
  • What are best practices for working together from the public humanities organizations’ point of view?

Best Practices for Evaluation and Communication

  • How can public humanities institutes and centers best communicate their work to the public, within the humanities disciplines, and to the wider university?
  • How can centers and institutes develop and share effective evaluation methods, especially those using qualitative and narrative tools?

Relationship between Institutes and Centers and Imagining America

  • How can institutes and centers build capacity within the field for better communication and evaluation, and what role could Imagining America play in this process?
  • How can Imagining America build relationships with other humanities centers and institutes and help foster collaboration with public humanities organizations such as state humanities councils and museums?

Related Reading

Dec. 2011 Update by Anne Valk, and Teresa Mangum, with Rachael Jeffers

To Get Involved

Currently, the working group members are holding monthly conference calls and committing to specific areas of inquiry. In the interest of welcoming contributions from outside the group, we encourage practitioners from other public humanities institutes and centers to contact us around these areas of interest. Please contact one of the group facilitators: Anne Valk, Brown University ( or Teresa Mangum, University of Iowa (

Group Members

Barb Bondy, Auburn University
Bonnie Effros, University of Florida
Jay Lamar, Auburn University
Immaculada Lara-Bonilla, Syracuse University
Marie Lo, Portland State University
Teresa Mangum*, University of Iowa
Leah Nahmias, New York Council for the Humanities
Anne Valk*, Brown University
Ann Ardis, University of Delaware
Molly McCarthy, University of California, Davis
Robert (Rick) Livingston, Ohio State
(*Group facilitators)