Jones Library Receives $1 Million National Endowment For The Humanities Challenge Grant

Library Director Sharon Sharry speaks at a ceremony celebrating receipt of a NEH challenge grant to support creation of a digital humanities center at the Jones Library. Photo: Eugene Goffredo / Jones Library

Source: Jones Library

Congressman James McGovern joined dozens of Jones Library supporters on May 3 to celebrate the receipt of a $1 million challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Additional speakers at the annoucement included State Rep. Mindy Domb, Amherst Town Councilor Anika Lopes, Library Director Sharon Sharry, and Library Trustees President Austin Sarat. 

The largest of twenty-four NEH Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grants given nationwide, the NEH grant will leverage funds to create a Humanities Center on the ground floor of the renovated and expanded Jones Library, including: 

  • Additional, fully climate-controlled collection space for the historical and literary materials housed in our world class Special Collections; 
  • ADA & public access to our Special Collections; 
  • New Special Collections Exhibit Gallery, a permanent home for Amherst’s Civil War Tablets; new space for our Burnett Art Gallery; and 
  • Additional, flexible program space for internal and community-based programming, including after-hours access. 

The purpose of the Humanities Center is to create a facility that can serve broader audiences with these collections and programs. From creating engaging exhibits from our Special Collections that make local history artifacts more visible and accessible to young people to providing program spaces for the Library and community partners to bring the community together, these purpose-built spaces will enable the Library to serve as the fulcrum for broader community-wide humanities events such as performances and lectures by community partners such as the Emily Dickinson Museum, Poetry and Art Walks, the Juneteenth celebration, and more. 

In this grant round, NEH awarded 24 capacity building challenge grants nationally. NEH reviewers rated the Jones Library’s application with the highest marks. One reviewer commented, “This proposal and the project Amherst is working towards are excellent. They clearly identify challenges, offer well-thought-out plans to address them, and create positive impact to the community while doing so. They’ve made a very compelling case for funding.” 

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2 thoughts on “Jones Library Receives $1 Million National Endowment For The Humanities Challenge Grant

  1. Winning the Humanities Center Challenge Grant is laudable if it can be used toward improving the library independent of whether the full renovation expansion project is able to move forward. $2M can go a long way toward building out a new ground level area for Special Collections and exhibit/community space that can be made accessible to the public after hours.

    However, it is not so commendable if the grant is contingent on approval of the $46+M building project and represents an attempt by the Capital Campaign to pressure Town Council to push the unnecessarily large and unaffordable addition of 15,000 sq. ft. through.

    Town leaders should work with the Library Trustees and Friends of the Jones Library to make sure that fundraising efforts that commit local tax dollars can go toward limited repairs or renovation.

  2. Kudos for winning this significant NEH grant! However, if a primary purpose of the Jones Library demolition/expansion project were (as reported in a recent Gazette/Bulletin article featuring Rep. McGovern and the BID director) to “make Amherst a destination” for more out-of-town visitors, then why aren’t there, say, 10-to-1 matching funds for this grant (and any other public funds) from the folks behind the BID (as well as from the owner of the E. D. Museum, and from other parties with a self-interest in the demolition/expansion project)?

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