The National Inventory of Humanities Organizations (NIHO) is exactly what it sounds like– an online database documenting humanities institutions currently in operation in the United States. NIHO, which was developed by the Humanities Indicators project at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, “encompasses not-for-profit, for-profit, and government institutions engaged in humanities scholarship and/or in bringing humanities knowledge or skills to various audiences.”(1)
I learned more about NIHO at the National Humanities Conference in New Orleans, LA a few weeks ago. Carolyn Fuqua, a senior research analyst at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and I both presented (along with several others) at the “Effecting Social Change Through the Humanities” session. She spoke about how the Humanities Indicators team designed NIHO to elevate the profiles of humanities organizations, encourage collaboration between them, and provide funders with a more comprehensive picture of the humanities landscape.
After we had both presented and the session ended, Carolyn and I talked about the relationship between NIHO and local history organizations. I had presented about the important (and often overlooked) place local history occupies in shaping change on the local level. I argued in my presentation that local historians need to do a better job collaborating with other humanities and cultural groups and they need to be more intentional about bringing the past to bear in conversations about present-day issues in their communities. Historically, most (but certainly not all– there are many wonderful exceptions) local historians and local history groups haven’t considered effecting social change to be an essential part of what they do, though their programs and activities often shape their local landscapes in interesting and unexpected ways. We need to do this more intentionally, and NIHO has a lot to offer local historians who are thinking about how they can better impact change at home.
As a result of my conversation with Carolyn, I’m writing an essay for Humanities Indicators about NIHO’s value to local historians and local history groups. Local history organizations make up a significant portion of the groups included in NIHO, but their history and impact are greatly understudied and, as a result, their potential is little understood. My essay considers how local historians can use NIHO to take their work in new directions and support projects that “effect social change.” I’ll look forward to sharing that with all of you, and in the meantime I encourage you to explore NIHO and think about how you can draw on this resource to inform your own work.
- Humanities Indicators, https://www.humanitiesindicators.org/content/document.aspx?i=31290