Why Fund the Humanities?

By Christianna Shortridge

Why should the federal government fund the humanities? This is a question I’ve been hearing for the past 25 years through my work in and around Congress. As administrations and Congresses come and go, the humanities remain. The humanities have been around much longer than our federal government; they are what holds us together as a civil society, they connect us, and they will never disappear.

The humanities are not just the broad descriptors of literature, history, philosophy, music. Once you scratch the surface of these humanities terms you discover rich educational programs, speakers series, and events right here in Nevada through the work of Nevada Humanities. These are a few of Nevada Humanities programs and events that touched the lives of over 900,00 Nevadans last year.

Great Basin Young Chautauqua is an award-winning program in which young people, ages 8-18, learn how to research and develop original Chautauqua presentations. This living history program allows young performers the opportunity to bring historical figures to life.

The annual Nevada Humanities Literary Crawl brings Reno residents of all ages together to celebrate, and be inspired by Nevada’s rich literary talent. This Literary Crawl showcases notable Nevada authors at venues throughout the Downtown Reno Arts Corridor, where they give readings of fiction, non‐fiction, and poetry.

Part panel discussion, part conversation, and part social event, The Salon and Pop-Up Salon programs bring people together to participate in conversations about humanities-related topics. Nevadans are offered a welcoming place to learn new perspectives and share ideas.

Held annually each fall, the Las Vegas Book Festival is a celebration of written, spoken, and illustrated word that features authors participating in panel discussions, book signings, readings, workshops, poetry, children's literature, exhibits, and special events.

These programs exemplify why we should fund the humanities. At Nevada Humanities every federal dollar received through funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is leveraged eight times over. In FY 2017, over $600,000 federal dollars from the NEH supported Nevada nonprofit businesses and humanities programs statewide, leveraged $8.41 locally. This smart return on investment opens up humanities programming statewide to thousands of Nevadans. Sure the funding for the NEH in the FY 2018 Omnibus Bill is not very much in the scheme of the whole federal budget—$152.8 million of which $47.2 million comes back to the 56 state humanities councils—and is considered an easy cut. But a cut at what cost?

The humanities are what make us human and connect us. Without the humanities to help us understand the world around us and to shine a light on the untold stories of Americans, this country will be a much darker and misunderstood place. Learn more about and support the work of Nevada Humanities, find out what is happening around the country through the NEH, or contact your Member of Congress to support funding the humanities.



Christianna Shortridge is a communications consultant with Nevada Humanities. She has worked for Congress and around Capitol Hill since 1993; Christianna has spent the last six years working with state humanities councils and as an advocate who supports the vital reach and importance of the humanities.

Images: Courtesy of Nevada Humanities

Maren Rush