NEH Awards $50,000 Covid Relief Grant for Digitizing Collections

On October 4, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced $87.8 million in American Rescue Plan funding to nearly 300 cultural and educational institutions to help them recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, retain and rehire workers, and reopen sites, facilities, and programs. The Willa Cather Foundation received $50,000 toward the ongoing tour development and digitizing efforts.

“The American Rescue Plan recognizes that the cultural and educational sectors are essential components of the United States economy and civic life, vital to the health and resilience of American communities,” said NEH Acting Chairman Adam Wolfson. “These new grants will provide a lifeline to the country’s colleges and universities, museums, libraries, archives, historical sites and societies, save thousands of jobs in the humanities placed at risk by the pandemic, and help bring economic recovery to cultural and educational institutions and those they serve.”

Grants awarded are supported by $135 million in supplemental funding allocated to NEH by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. NEH has already distributed $52.6 million of this funding to state and jurisdictional humanities councils to support humanities organizations, programs, and professionals at the local level.

These NEH Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (#SHARP) grants provide emergency relief to help offset financial losses sustained by humanities organizations over the last eighteen months. They allow cultural and educational nonprofits to retain and rehire staff, maintain operations essential to their missions, and rebuild programs and projects that have been disrupted by the pandemic. The humanities activities they support include education, preservation and access, public programming, digital humanities, and scholarly research.

Approximately 115 SHARP grants will allow museums, historic sites, and historical societies, which experienced devastating losses in revenue while closed to the public, to reopen facilities, rehire staff, and resume on-site programs. Our $50,000 award will allow us to:

  • Create and develop phase two of the National Willa Cather Center’s self-guided and app-supported tours, featuring our historic sites and special collection items related to the Burlington Depot and Pavelka Farmstead, both of which have a direct connection with Willa Cather’s life and literature.
  • Make a large subset of archival materials available digitally on the Foundation’s website. Efforts will focus on digitization and online gallery creation featuring approximately 1,200 historic photos of Willa Cather, her friends and family, and early Red Cloud. Documents related to Red Cloud’s founders and the town’s early history during Cather’s time there will also be digitized.

For both initiatives, interpretive information will be designed to explore America’s story through the settings, writings, and collections associated with Willa Cather. In alignment with the NEH’s A More Perfect Union Initiative, this project will give special consideration to the evolution of America’s landscape during the closing of the frontier. The project will enable the Foundation to utilize its historic sites, collections, and archival materials to preserve and share meaningful and informative historical records and imagery. 

The Willa Cather Foundation is also in excellent company with several Nebraska institutions of higher learning, including the NEH funding of a new humanities department at Hastings College.

Read the NEH press release from October 4, and other related links, for more information.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at