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A Brief History of PHC

State humanities councils are the nonprofit partners of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The councils and the NEH were both established by congressional mandate in 1965 and charged with two goals: advancing knowledge and understanding of the humanities, and increasing public awareness of, access to and support for the humanities in the United States.

The earliest state councils were organized in 1971, with Pennsylvania’s council founded as a start-up grant at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1973 the Public Committee for the Humanities in Pennsylvania officially incorporated as a nonprofit at Bucknell University. We settled in Philadelphia on our own in 1980 with the name Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC).

In the early years, our activity consisted almost exclusively of making grants to nonprofit organizations with funds provided by the NEH. During the 1980s and early 1990s, we complemented our grants with staff-directed special projects and packaged programs.

In 1994 we began to focus on expanding access to the humanities in Pennsylvania beyond groups traditionally interested in cultural events. We sought to empower local groups, working to build the programming capacity of small historical societies, museums, art centers, libraries, senior centers, and community groups. As of 2012 we were supporting 379 programs and events, partnering with 213 organizations, and reaching 113 communities.

In 2013 we decided to re-envision our future by focusing strategically on areas of need in Pennsylvania where the humanities can have the greatest impact: civic engagement and education. As we move into the future, we are putting the humanities in action to create positive change with people and communities across the commonwealth.

We invite you to think, engage,  and grow with us!

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