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The National Humanities Center (NHC) is an independent institute for advanced study in the humanities. It is the only major independent institute for advanced study in all fields of the humanities in the United States. The NHC operates as a privately incorporated nonprofit and is not part of any university. The center was planned under the auspices of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which saw a need for substantial support for academic research in the humanities, and began operations in 1978.

The National Humanities Center is located in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina a research and industrial park in Durham County. It is near the campuses of Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Although the Center is unique, it may be compared with other institutes of advanced study, such as the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, Harvard's Radcliffe Institute or Germany's Max Planck Institutes and the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. It is a member of the group Some Institutes for Advanced Study.


The National Humanities Center offers dedicated programs in support of humanities scholarship and teaching as well as a regular schedule of public events, conferences, and interactive initiatives to engage the public in special topics and emerging issues.

Fellowship Program – Each year, the Center admits approximately forty Fellows, from a broad range of disciplines and institutions. They are selected based on the strength of their scholarship and projects. The Center prides itself on the rigor and fairness of its application process, and actively seeks to support scholars whose work is exceptional, regardless of their institutional affiliation. Typically more than four hundred applications for fellowships are received by the center each year. A few senior scholars are invited to assume fellowships by the Center's trustees. Scholars in the humanities from any nation are welcome to apply. The National Humanities Center has no permanent fellows or faculty.

NHC Fellows are given substantial support in order to pursue their individual research and writing projects. Interdisciplinary seminars provide Fellows the opportunity to share insights and criticism. Since 1978, the Center has welcomed over 1,100 Fellows who have published more than 1,200 books. Many of these studies have proven to be influential in their fields and have been recognized by their peers for the quality of their scholarship and writing.

Selected Prizes Won by National Humanities Center Fellows

  • The Albert J. Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association
  • The American Academy of Religion Book Award
  • The Bancroft Prize
  • The British Council Prize in the Humanities
  • The Haskins Medal of the Medieval Academy of America
  • The Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association
  • History Book Club Main Selection
  • The Louis Gottschalk Prize of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies
  • The Merle Curti Award of the Organization of American Historians
  • The National Book Award
  • Phi Beta Kappa Christian Glauss Award
  • The Philip Schaff Prize of the American Society of Church History
  • The Prix du Rayonnement de la langue et de la littérature françaises of the Académie Française
  • The Pulitzer Prize
  • The Ralph Bunche Award of the American Political Science Association
  • The Robert F. Kennedy Prize
  • The James Russell Lowell Prize of the Modern Language Association

In 2009-2010 the Center supported scholarly projects on topics ranging from forgery and counter-forgery in the early Christian era to the history of commercial fraud in America and a wide range of projects in the fields of anthropology, American studies, art history, English, environmental studies, history, Italian, musicology, philosophy, and religious studies.

Education Programs – The National Humanities Center is distinctive among centers for advanced study in its commitment to linking scholarship to improved teaching. Model programs in American Studies developed at the Center provide teachers with new materials and instructional strategies to make them more effective in the classroom and rekindle their enthusiasm for the subjects they teach.

The NHC offers live, on-line workshops and intensive summer institutes for high school teachers and liberal arts college faculty that allow them to work with alumni Fellows and other leading scholars on topics drawn from American art, history, and literature. Workshops and institutes are also used to assemble, discuss, and share extensive archives of primary source materials – arranged in “toolboxes” and accompanied with discussion questions and instructional planning guides for easy classroom use. The center makes these toolboxes available free of charge on its Web site and trains teachers to use them in their home school districts across the United States.

Each year hundreds of thousands of teachers and students visit TeacherServe®, the Center's online interactive curriculum enrichment service. TeacherServe supplements the seminar toolboxes with secondary sources - essays by leading scholars, instructional activities, and links to online resources - that enrich their own understanding of topics and suggest approaches for more effective classroom teaching.

Outreach – The National Humanities Center hosts a variety of public events, both to stimulate public awareness for humanities scholarship and to address special topics. In recent years, events have included appearances by A.S. Byatt, Oliver Sacks, Michael Pollan, and E. O. Wilson.

From 2006-09, the NHC sponsored an initiative exploring emerging issues in human self-understanding. This initiative, which involved fellowships, guest lectures, faculty seminars, and three annual conferences on “The Human and The Humanities” brought leading scientists from disciplines as diverse as neurolinguistics, primatology, and information technology together with literary critics, historians, and philosophers in dialogue about how their research interests and recent discoveries were both interconnected and overlapping. This initiative led to the creation of a new Web site,, where dialogue continues, and an archive is being compiled of resources and research related to the topic.

In 2010, the National Humanities Center will host an academic conference on "The State and Stakes of Literary Study" bringing together leading figures from the study of literature to discuss changes in the field, emerging directions, and the contributions that are being made by literary scholars, not only in the education of students but in public understanding of contemporary issues.


National Humanities Center Fellows and trustees have included many of the leading figures in American scholarship in the past thirty years. Among those most closely associated with the Center are its founders, Meyer Abrams, Morton Bloomfield, Frederick Burkhardt, Charles Frankel (first director of the Center), Robert F. Goheen, Steven Marcus, Henry Nash Smith, Gregory Vlastos, and John Voss, as well as luminaries such as historian John Hope Franklin and philanthropist Archie K. Davis.

Since 1978, the center has been led by five directors: Charles Frankel, William Bennett, Charles Blitzer, Robert Connor, and current director Geoffrey G. Harpham.

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