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North Carolina Humanities Council: Telling the Many Stories of One People, Every day

North Carolina Humanities Council: Telling the Many Stories of One People, Every day "At a Stranger's Table" by Scott Temple

In North Carolina, you don’t have to look far to find the impact of the North Carolina Humanities Council’s programs and services. The mission and work of the Council derives from the organization’s name itself—to bring North Carolinians together, using the humanities as a springboard for conversation around topics of regional and national importance. Established in 1972, the NC Humanities Council is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities that offers and supports public humanities opportunities for residents of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities to reach students, adults, seniors, teachers, veterans, and other audiences across the state. The Council also provides services for its prospective grantees and project coordinators, such as one-on-one technical assistance, grant writing consultations, and referrals.

With a mission to serve all of North Carolina, the North Carolina Humanities Council uses its partnerships with national institutions—including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress—to continually advocate for humanities resources and programs in North Carolina. For more than 45 years, the Council’s innovative programming and partnerships, community grants, and regional awards have enabled North Carolinians to explore who they are, where they came from and, most importantly, why these things matter. By sharing stories, ideas, and experiences, North Carolinians learn to understand one another, connect with their communities, and enrich their own lives.

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By investing in local educational infrastructure, skills training opportunities, and cultural tourism, the North Carolina Humanities Council invigorates North Carolina economies. Museum on Main Street is a one-of-a-kind cultural partnership program between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the 56-state humanities councils nationwide. Since 2010, the Council has brought four nationally recognized Smithsonian exhibits to twenty-four small-town museums, libraries, and historic sites in the state. The program exemplifies what can be done by harnessing and combining the prestige of the Smithsonian Institution, the decades of program expertise of the North Carolina Humanities Council, the unique histories of rural North Carolina, and the remarkable volunteerism of its people.

Cultural host sites in North Carolina feature the Museum on Main Street exhibits for two months of the year, augmenting them with their own regional stories, artifacts, and programs to create a unique local experience. When hosting exhibits, cultural sites are also given personal programming sessions with Council staff, coupled with grant funds to support humanities-based programs relating to the exhibit. Increasingly, Museum on Main Street has given national exposure to rural North Carolina cultural institutions and communities, drawing in new audiences and creating new philanthropic partnerships.

In 2010, the North Carolina Humanities Council brought the exhibit New Harmonies to six rural North Carolina host sties. Visitors journeyed through the development of the iconic American musical genres of blues, country and western, folk ballads, and gospel, exploring the ongoing cultural process that has made America the birthplace of so many types of music. In 2012, the exhibit Journey Stories examined tales of how our ancestors came to America; the exhibit Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America in 2015 showed viewers the role sports have in our history and future; and in 2018, The Way We Worked highlighted how occupations and work environments have shaped American culture.

In 2020–2021, the North Carolina Humanities Council will welcome the exhibit Water/Ways. With the state’s distinct aquatic landscape, water plays an integral part in shaping its identity. Water/Ways draws on the environmental, cultural, and historical aspects of water to explore the relationships between people and water; water as a critical resource; and water as an inspiration to authors, musicians, and other artists. For upcoming tour information, visit moms.nchumanities.org.

NCHumanities WATERWAYS Blog



The North Carolina Humanities Council has a longstanding history of promoting literacy, libraries, and literature through a variety of statewide programs and events. In August 2018, the Council became the new affiliate center for the North Carolina Center for the Book, which serves as a “virtual center” and umbrella for all Council literature program offerings. Supported by the Library of Congress, state Centers for the Book are located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Through a vast array of programming formats, participants are encouraged to engage with literature and their communities in ways that increase critical thinking skills and provide a vehicle for sharing personal and collective stories. North Carolina Humanities Council literature programs include Let’s Talk About It, a community library reading and discussion program; Literature and Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Healthcare®, a reading and discussion program for health care professionals; Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series, a reading and mentorship program for students; Letters About Literature, a reading and writing contest for grade-school students; and Veterans Reading Groups, a reading and discussion program for veterans.

NCHumanities BLOG Literature



The North Carolina Humanities Council welcomes project proposals that support public humanities programs and events that explore the state’s heritage to foster cross-cultural understanding. Funding from the Council supports consultations with humanities scholars, as well as the planning and implementation of humanities projects. In recent years, the Council has funded teacher scholarships, youth media literacy programs, oral history projects, veterans’ artistic expression classes, and much more.

If you love sharing stories, studying the humanities, or exploring new cultures, then join us as we invest in North Carolina’s future. Believing that the humanities both inform and transform, we provide and sponsor inquiry, discovery, and communication through our programs, partnerships, grants, and awards. Our work is made possible by generous people who believe that the humanities are critical for the health, success, and future of all in North Carolina. Many Stories, One People.