2014-04-16

THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES AWARDS THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY $434,400

Grants Will Support a Research Fellowship and Fund a Two-Year Project Conserving and Cataloging Manuscripts

New York, NY, April 16, 2014—The New-York Historical Society today announced it received two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The first grant will support a three-year-research-fellowship and the second will fund the cataloging and conservation of 6,000 items in the American Historical Manuscript Collection (AHMC) over two years at the New-York Historical Society’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library.

A grant of $143,400 will support the National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship, providing one scholar per year with unfettered access to collection resources and an intellectual community to develop new research that illuminates complex issues of the past. The fellow will have the opportunity to leverage the New-York Historical Society’s incomparable collections of documents, artifacts, and works of art documenting American history from the perspective of New York.

A $300,000 grant will fund a two-year project that will allow the New-York Historical Society to catalog and conserve 6,000 manuscripts from the American Historical Manuscript Collection. The cataloging of these collections will offer researchers throughout New York and around the world unprecedented access to these documents as well as views into the history of New York and the United States from the 17th through 20th centuries. Areas of focus within the AHMC include politics and government; military history; slavery and abolition; women’s history; identity studies; economic, business, and trade history; exploration and westward expansion; and real estate and the built environment. Highlights include:

• a letter written by Clara Harris, who was sitting in Abraham Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theatre on April 25, 1865 when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth. The letter provides a vivid eyewitness account of the assassination and its aftermath;
• a group of manuscripts (1640-1699) documenting the early settlement of Staten Island by Cornelius Melyn, and his grievances against colonial governors William Kieft and Peter Stuyvesant. His disagreements with Stuyvesant led to his conviction for lèse majesté, later overturned by the States-General. The documents reveal the many difficulties encountered by Melyn in his attempts to colonize Staten Island;
• eighteen letters (ca. 1864) from Louisa May Alcott to journalist and anti-slavery proponent James Redpath. In addition to being a famous author, Alcott was an abolitionist who had been involved in the Underground Railroad along with her family;
• a letter written by Susan B. Anthony (1862), who was best known for her activities on behalf of women’s suffrage, but who was also involved in the anti-slavery movement, reporting on slavery speeches by George Cheever, author of God Against Slavery (1857) and Frederick S. Douglass, the famous African American abolitionist;
• a sixteen-foot-long scroll signed by attendees at a public meeting in New York City, April 1844, in opposition to the annexation of Texas. As a slave-owning area, the annexation of Texas into the Union was opposed by many because it waw feared that if would intensify the pro- and anti-slavery controversies that were beginning to tear the nation apart;
• a letter (August 1849) providing an important eyewitness account of the hardships of the California gold rush, during which four out of six miners became ill and a disappointing amount of gold was mined while working in temperatures approaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit;
• a letter written by Minnie Weiss, a child who survived the fire that killed over 1,000 passengers on the steamship General Slocum in 1904. In terms of loss of life, the General Slocum disaster was the worst disaster to befall New York City until the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

The NEH has awarded the grants to the New-York Historical Society through its “Fellowship Programs at Independent Research Institutions” program and its “Humanities Collections and Reference Resources” program, which allows institutions to preserve and provide access to collections essential to scholarship, education, and public programming in the humanities. Visit the NEH’s web site for more information about the NEH’s $18.2 million in awards and offers for 208 humanities projects.

About the New-York Historical Society
Established in 1804, the New-York Historical Society comprises New York's oldest museum and a nationally renowned research library. New-York Historical collects, preserves and interprets American history and art; its mission is to make these collections accessible to the broadest public and increase understanding of American history through exhibitions, public programs, and research that reveal the dynamism of history and its impact on the world today. New-York Historical’s holdings cover four centuries of American history and comprise one of the world's greatest collections of historical artifacts, American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States as seen through the prism of New York City and State.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

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