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It’s hard to find a bipartisan cause these days.

Over the past months, we have been pleased to find that support for the National Endowment for the Humanities is one of the few that unites members of Congress across the aisle. We have seen affirmations from both Republicans and Democrats throughout the year that federal support for the NEH is a very worthy investment.

This support is rooted in an awareness of the critical work the NEH supports in Nebraska and across the nation. Last month, members of Congress had the opportunity to see one of Nebraska’s cutting-edge humanities projects up close.

Dr. Kay Walter of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Digital Research joined Broadway star and humanities advocate Lin-Manuel Miranda on Capitol Hill to showcase the important humanities work happening at UNL.

Before an audience that included members of Congress, Walter described the nationally-significant humanities projects underway at UNL. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry also joined the showcase to introduce Dr. Walter and attest to the value of the humanities to our nation’s civic culture.

With the support of 23 grants from the NEH totaling more than $5.7 million, the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities is creating resources for use by scholars and the general public.

Scholars apply STEM methods and technologies to traditional humanities content: UNL senior Emma Himes is using the computing language R to code Willa Cather's letters, making it possible to perform statistical analysis on the documents. The letters, together with Cather’s essays, stories and novels are available online on the Center’s Willa Cather Archive.

This is just one example of the center’s cutting-edge work to compile, digitize and share archival resources that foster new learning opportunities in Nebraska -- and anywhere with an internet connection. Other examples include the award-winning Whitman Archive, which compiles his poetry and other writing for public use, and Livingstone Online, a project illuminating the life of imperial explorer David Livingstone.

The center at UNL is a perfect example of the positive difference the NEH has been making across the country since its creation in 1965. NEH funding has provided critical support to UNL, enabling it to create a nationally-recognized digital humanities center that provides a valuable resource for people across the country while creating academic opportunities for students and professors in Lincoln.

NEH grants have had similarly catalytic effects in every state and territory. Through grants to institutions across the country, the NEH supports excellence in education and research, protects our cultural heritage, provides lifelong learning opportunities, and strengthens local economies.

October marked National Arts and Humanities Month, and we must unite to call on Congress to continue their support for the NEH. The humanities not only foster learning and creativity; they are part of the backbone of our local economies.

Join us by emailing or calling your U.S. senators and representatives in Congress to voice support for the NEH and its programs, including the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at UNL, and those like it across the country.

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Stephen Kidd is executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, an advocacy coalition dedicated to the advancement of humanities education, research, preservation and public programs.

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