NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Perspectives from Federal Agencies – NEH and IMLS

Perspectives from Federal Agencies – NEH and IMLS


  • Brett Bobley, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Ashley Sands, Institute of Museum and Library Studies

Session Scribe: Paige Belisle, Harvard University

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Both the NEH and IMLS can fund a wide range of project types. The best way to learn about all of the individual programs offered is to visit the funders’ websites.
  • Both agencies recommend that prospective PIs reach out to a program officer to discuss their proposed projects prior to applying. Program officers can also read proposal drafts.
  • NEH encourages faculty members from outside of the humanities to apply via interdisciplinary projects.
  • IMLS has a broad definition of what constitutes a museum or library – so it’s good to check to see if a PI’s project might fit within this agency by looking at the requirements of the individual programs.
  • Both agencies have an interest in funding projects in the digital humanities and in digital infrastructure.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Many faculty and research development professionals alike are under the impression that all research projects supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities must result in a scholarly book. However, this is not the case! The NEH supports a wide range of projects, including programs for the public, preservation and access, and the digital humanities.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

Both of the program officers emphasized that samples of successful proposals are available on their agencies’ respective websites, organized by individual program.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenters’ response?

One audience member asked how to advise faculty who wanted program officer feedback after the stated draft deadline had passed. Both program officers suggested such faculty members reach out to their respective program officers directly to ask about sending a draft regardless—this is sometimes a feasible option and can be mutually beneficial.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

NEH and IMLS staff are available to travel to give outreach presentations at institutions. For NEH/IMLS budgeting purposes, it is helpful to request such a presentation well in advance. The presenters also recommended partnering with other institutions in your region to host a joint event, as having the opportunity to present to multiple/larger groups allows the program officers to justify their budget requests more successfully.

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