Humanities shift

Funding for the humanities by the largest U.S. foundations grew 150 percent in the 10 years through 2002, but trailed the growth in foundation giving overall and lost its share of giving, a new report says.

Funding also is growing for public programming in the humanities but dropping for scholarship in core humanities disciplines, says the report The Foundation Center and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Giving to fields such as art history, history and archeology, languages and linguistics, area studies and the humanistic social sciences grew to $335 million in 2002 from $134.1 million in 1992, the report says.

Foundation giving overall nearly doubled during the same period, while the share of giving to the humanities fell to 2.1 percent in 2002 from 2.5 percent in the early 1990s, says the report, Foundation Funding for the Humanities: An Overview of Current and Historical Funds.

Analyzing all grants of $10,000 or more by 1,000 of the biggest private and community foundations in the U.S., the report found the number of foundations making humanities grants grew 37 percent to 683, with just five foundations providing more than one in four grant dollars to the humanities, and 25 foundations providing roughly half the support.

The fields of historical activities and humanities-related museum activities accounted for nearly half of humanities grant dollars in 2002, the report says, while disciplines such as classical and foreign languages, which received the biggest share of dollars from humanities funders in the 1920s and ‘30s, have suffered drastic reductions.

Art history and the classics seem to get relatively little support, the report says, while philosophy seems to get significant support, mainly for ethics, and history seems to be flourishing, likely because of capital investment in history museums.

“There has been a long-term trend toward public programming in the humanities and away from the funding of scholarship in the core disciplines,” the report says.

The long-term health of the humanities field, it says, “will require an active effort on the part of humanities funders and leaders in the field to educate grantmakers about the needs and opportunities presented by the humanities and to encourage them – especially some of the tens of thousands of foundations formed in the last decade – to include the humanities among their priorities.”

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