Healing the Humanities during a Global Pandemic
When history took an unprecedented turn in 2020 and a global pandemic pushed society to its limits, doors closed, windows shuttered, and the world retreated to safety in isolation. The result was a rapid decline of revenue for many of Florida’s vital cultural institutions who depended on in-person patrons. Facing this new reality, historic societies, museums, libraries, and heritage nonprofits faced an all-to-uncertain future.
In response to the Coronavirus crisis, the United States’ Congress exacted a plan on March 27, 2020: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Nestled in the bill was a $75 million allocation for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to distribute to cultural institutions affected by COVID-19. Approximately 40 percent of the appropriation, or $30 million, was entrusted to the 56 state and territorial humanities councils to re-grant to our communities. After two months of rapidly developing and marketing this new emergency grant opportunity, Florida Humanities received a staggering 229 applications, ultimately awarding $875,000 to 100 cultural institutions though “Florida Humanities CARES” to support much-needed general operating expenses. See statewide impact below.
But what value could humanities programming provide to local communities in times of health scares and economic downturns? A great deal, it turns out.
While the value of the hard sciences is irrefutable and highlighted during a pandemic, the humanities offer a different perspective. While the humanities broadly include the study of history, literature, culture, languages, law and political science, folklore, gender studies, religious studies, philosophy and sociology, art history, archeology and sociocultural anthropology, and civics they are, at its essence, the process of pursuing an understanding of our shared human experience. Humanities inspire, engage, and enrich both us and our communities.
At their core, humanities-rich public programming – programming that the 100 awarded “Florida Humanities CARES” applicants provide – gives local communities a sense of grounding, and a vehicle through which to gather and discuss modern problems through a historic lens, crafting solutions to build a better future.
In July 2020, the American Alliance of Museums released an eye-opening report stating that the United States is at risk of losing one-third of its museums in the economic fallout of COVID-19. A vital source of employment, museums alone support 726,000 direct and indirect jobs, contributing $50 billion each year to the economy.
With many cultural institutions facing a similar fate, the 100 grants awarded by Florida Humanities provided temporary albeit critical relief to the state’s most vulnerable cultural institutions. Below are just some of the ways “Florida Humanities CARES” have made a difference in communities across Florida.
One “Florida Humanities CARES” recipient, The Village Square, Inc., is a Leon County based organization with a mission to uphold the founding principles of democracy through community conversations involving diverse participants that explore solutions on a hometown level. Despite facing the threat of closure due to loss of revenue, The Village Square leapt into action to aid the Tallahassee community through organizing a mask making and distribution effort and a “Local Patriots” campaign to recognize the heroic efforts of individuals within the community in supporting one another during the pandemic.
To support this community-oriented organization, the $9,850 “Florida Humanities CARES” Grant provided emergency financial support that will maintain minimal staffing and a digital presence so The Village Square is able to restart vital humanities programming once large gatherings are safe.
Goodwood Museum and Gardens, another Tallahassee-based grant recipient, received a $10,250 “Florida Humanities CARES” grant. Sitting adjacent to a hospital, the museum was uniquely positioned to offer its gardens as a no-cost sanctuary for families not allowed inside the hospital due to Covid-19 restrictions. The grant provided by Florida Humanities enabled Goodwood Museum and Gardens to continue providing a retreat for the local hospital’s patients, families, and healthcare workers, and continue providing vital humanities programming once permissible.
Travelling south to Broward County is another “Florida Humanities CARES” grant recipient, the Historic Stranahan House Museum. Sitting on the banks of the New River in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale rests the oldest and most historically significant building in Broward County. Built in 1901, Stranahan House Museum allows visitors a portal into the past, sharing the story of Fort Lauderdale’s founding.
With a deep commitment to connecting with the Broward County community, the Stranahan House spared no time in developing a response to the pandemic and premiered its first virtual program the night that the city announced “safer at home” orders.
With Broward County’s most historical building facing a total loss of revenue, the assistance of the $10,250 “Florida Humanities CARES” grant enabled the museum to meet their general operating expenses so that they can continue to provide free educational and entertaining programs during the duration of the closure, creating an online space for Fort Lauderdale’s community to feel connected to their history and one another during isolation.
On the East Coast, Jacksonville-based Refugees Stories, another “Florida Humanities CARES” grant recipient, works to collect, preserve, and spread the stories of refugees in Florida, building empathy through understanding. In the face of a total loss of revenue, cancelled programs, and a severely depleted workforce, Refugees Stories shifted gears to collect the unique experiences of local refugees during the pandemic. Through gathering, discussing, and sharing stories, empathy is slowly built and the path to equality and assistance is paved. The $8,000 “Florida Humanities CARES” grant has allowed Refugee Stories to continue its invaluable work in their community.
All in all, “Florida Humanities CARES,” funded by the NEH as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, provided much-needed relief to some of Florida’s most at-risk cultural organizations, allowing the continuation of truly important work in Florida’s local communities.
The importance of supporting humanities organizations remains ever imperative as we turn to them in times of community soul-searching, seeking comfort in togetherness while in isolation. As the world adjusts to “the new norm” during these historical moments, Florida Humanities remains steadfast in its mission to support cultural organizations across the Sunshine State, funding the public programs that ultimately give us the tools to learn how to think creatively and critically, to reason, and to ask questions about topics that truly matter for a better future.
Florida Humanities CARES Funds Awarded
Florida Humanities CARES Grants Awarded throughout Florida.
in general operating support awarded to cultural organizations.
out of 67 Florida counties represented.
of funds went to organizations with annual budgets of less than $500,000.
Hover over icons below for a list of organizations that were awarded Florida Humanities CARES grants.
American Space Museum - $7,500
Eau Gallie Arts District Main Street Inc. - $6,000
Coral Springs Museum of Art - $11,850
Davie School Foundation, Inc. - $10,250
Deerfield Beach Historical Society, Inc. - $8,000
Grace Arts Center - $6,000
Old Dillard Foundation - $10,250
Sample-McDougald House - $10,250
Stonewall National Museum & Archives - $10,250
Stranahan House, Inc. - $10,250
TEN Global - $7,000
Military Heritage Museum - $10,250
Holocaust Museum & Education Center of SWFL - $11,850
Marco Island Historical Society - $10,250
Beaches Area Historical Society - $10,250
Mandarin Museum & Historical Society - $4,000
Refugees Stories - $8,000
African American Heritage Society, Inc. - $8,000
Pensacola Lighthouse Association Inc. - $10,250
West Florida Historic Preservation dba UWF Historic Trust - $11,850
African American Cultural Society, Inc. - $8,000
Apalachicola Area Historical Society $5,000
Dixie Theatre Foundation, Inc. - $8,000
Apalachicola Arsenal Museum and Conference Center - $2,500
Gadsden Arts, Inc. - $10,250
Havana History & Heritage Society, Inc. - $8,000
Quincy Main Street, Inc. - $8,000
Brooksville Vision Foundation - $10,250
Hernando Historical Museum Association - $8,000
Heartland Cultural Alliance, Inc. - $8,000
Highway Park Neighborhood Preservation & Enhancement District Council - $8,000
East Hillsborough Historical Society, Inc. - $5,000
Florida Museum of Photographic Arts - $10,250
Plant City Photo Archives - $8,000
Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center - $8,000
The Victory Ship, Inc. - $10,250
Indian River County
Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation - $8,000
Vero Heritage, Inc. - $10,250
Monticello Opera House - $10,250
Trout Lake Nature Center - $8,000
Barrier Island Parks Society, Inc. - $10,250
Boca Grande Historical Society - $10,250
Cape Coral Historical Society Inc. - $8,000
Lee County Black History Society, Inc. - $8,000
Florida Association of Museums Foundation, Inc. - $8,000
Goodwood Museum and Gardens - $10,250
John G. Riley Center & Museum - $10,250
Southern Shakespeare Company - $10,250
Theater with a Mission, Inc. - $8,000
To the Village Square, Inc. - $9,850
Reflections of Manatee, Inc. - $8,000
Fire Haus Projects,Inc. - $7,500
Gold Coast Railroad Museum - $10,250
Haitian Heritage Museum - $8,000
Miami Shores People of Color - $6,400
The Bakehouse Art Complex, Inc. - $10,250
Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation - $10,250
Historic Markers, Incorporated - $8,000
Key West Botanical Garden Society - $10,250
Amelia Island Museum of History - $10,250
North Okaloosa Historical Association - $8,000
Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens - $11,850
Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. - $10,250
Historical Society of Central Florida, Inc. - $11,850
Urban Think Foundation - $10,250
Winter Garden Heritage Foundation - $10,250
Palm Beach County
Aequalis, Inc (d/b/a The Core Ensemble) - $10,250
Spady Cultural Heritage Museum - Expanding and Preserving Our Cultural Heritage, Inc. - $10,250
Town of Lantana Public Library - $7,500
Pioneer Florida Museum & Village - $10,250
Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum - $10,250
Dunedin Historical Museum - $10,250
Friends of the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum - $8,000
Gulfport Historical Society - $5,000
Palm Harbor Historical Society - $8,000
Saint Petersburg Preservation - $10,250
[email protected] - $10,250
Your Real Stories, Inc. - $10,250
Saint Johns County
Fort Mose Historical Society - $8,000
St. Augustine Historical Society - $9,750
St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program - $10,250
The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Florida, DBA Ximenez-Fatio House Museum - $10,250
Saint Lucie County
A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery - $10,250
Lincoln Park Main Street - $8,000
Lemon Bay Historical Society Inc. - $5,000
Venice Historical Preservation League - $7,000
Vickie O! Heritage Productions, Inc. - $6,000
Goldsboro Westside Community Historical Museum - $8,000
DeLand Naval Air Station Museum, Inc. - $8,000
Enterprise Preservation Society, Inc. - $8,000
Halifax Historical Society & Museum - $8,000
Holly Hill Historic Preservation Society - $4,000
Ormond Beach Historical Society, Inc. - $10,250
Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts - $10,250
Southeast Volusia Historical Society - $8,000
Washington County Public Library - $10,250
Updated: July 2020
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