Feds Spend $300,000 for ‘Dialogues About Water’

New NEH grants include $30,000 for the 'oral histories' of LGBTQ community in Idaho

University of Wisconsin, which received NEH money / Getty Images

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The National Endowment for the Humanities' list of taxpayer-funded projects includes $300,000 for conversations about water, $75,000 for a database of podcasts, and $30,000 for oral histories of lesbian and gay Idahoans.

The NEH released its list of its first projects under the Trump administration this week. Jon Peede, the acting chairman of the NEH and Trump appointee, has discretion for signing off on every grant award.

The $39.3 million list of projects comes after the president sought the elimination of the agency, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts, in his budget proposal.

A source with extensive knowledge of the cultural agencies told the Washington Free Beacon, "There is no difference between the millions of dollars of grants awarded by the Trump and Obama NEH, this in spite of the president's request to defund it."

The source said titles of projects have been changed to make grants sound more mainstream.

Paula Wasley, a spokesperson for the NEH, confirmed that titles are sometimes changed, saying, "The agency occasionally offers alternatives to applicants' proposed titles for clarity."

She also defended the project list, which includes $320,000 outright and a $100,000 matching grant to the University of Virginia for the publication of the papers of George Washington, as well as grants for the papers of several other Founders.

"NEH stands by its decision to fund presidential paper projects for John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe, and George Washington as well as projects from the Michigan Humanities Council, University of Idaho, and an educational program focused on 15 indigenous Alaskan communities," she said.

This year's humanities projects also include $300,000 to the Michigan Humanities Council for "Dialogues about Water."

The grant will provide for "implementation of a series of public programs across Michigan that would address the historical, cultural, and environmental impact of water," according to the NEH.

A $30,000 grant is going to the University of Idaho for an assistant professor's journalism project on the "Oral Histories of Idaho's LGBTQ community."

Denise Bennett had already received $3,500 from the Idaho Humanities Council for the "multimedia project examining the experiences and lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the state of Idaho."

Louisiana State University and A&M College received $39,982 to create a virtual reality game that re-creates 18th-century theater at the Paris Fair.

A $74,972 grant is going to a University of Wisconsin project creating an archive of podcasts.

Jeremy Morris, an assistant professor who started the podcast archive, says it is necessary to take steps to preserve podcasts that discuss transgender bathrooms and Trump.

"A lot of the database that I've built relies on metadata—you're able to search through the database and find keywords," he said. "If you want to find out what was happening in podcasts that's related to Trump, or that's related to transgender rights or bathroom bills, these are all keywords you can search through the metadata."

Other projects include $188,000 for a two-week seminar on Islamic poetry, and $108,000 for 16 schoolteachers to learn about the "history and cultures of Muslims in the United States."

Another $60,000 project is exploring the "historic and cultural significance" of polar bears for people in Alaska.

Elizabeth Harrington   Email Elizabeth | Full Bio | RSS
Elizabeth Harrington is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Elizabeth graduated from Temple University in 2010. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, she worked as a staff writer for CNSNews.com. Her email address is elizabeth@freebeacon.com. Her Twitter handle is @LizWFB.

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