Mellon Foundation Grants $13 Million to Tell National Park Stories

Last year alone, national park properties recorded nearly 300 million visitors. That’s more than twice the population of Japan descending on the parks, seashores, etc. Think about the hundreds of millions of questions these visitors had. What’s the significance of this place? Why is this park here? Who lived here when Europeans first arrived? What sorts of things took place within this park’s boundaries? And on and on. Someone has to tell those stories, share histories, interpret the past, and help educate people who want to know more about our national park properties.

The National Park Service Mellon Humanities Fellowship just announced a more than $13 million grant extension to fund thirty post-doctoral humanities fellowships across the country to help tell these stories. Fellows spend two years in the program, one doing serious research into their topic, then another implementing an educational project they design.

From a presser announcing the grants:

“From creating an expanded reading list on the history of slavery and racism for New York’s Martin Van Buren National Historic Park to partnering with the César E. Chávez National Monument in Kern County, California to develop an oral history plan for collecting Latina and Filipina immigrant women’s stories, the initial phase of the program demonstrated the power of translating research into audience-centered materials and bridging the gap between academia and public-facing agencies like the National Park Service (NPS). Reaching both staff and visitors at NPS sites, this pilot program demonstrated the potential of the humanities to surface more expansive histories and to bring those narratives to new audiences in an impactful way.

With a significant number of Americans visiting NPS sites each year—in 2021, NPS sites received a total of 297 million visitors—the expansion of the fellowship will present opportunities for visitors across the country to share in a learning and honoring of the nation’s lesser-heard stories. By diving deeper into the narratives learnt and told at NPS sites, the program’s fellows will continue to realize each location’s rich potential to be a conduit for greater representation, preservation, and understanding.”

Photo: Mill Ruins Park/NPS

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