Our mission is to champion the humanities as a means to spark civic engagement, build community, educate, inspire, and make long-lasting change.
PA Humanities has grown and changed significantly in its nearly 50-year history. After forming from a startup grant at the University of Pennsylvania, we were officially incorporated at Bucknell University in 1973. We finally settled in Philadelphia in 1980 with the name Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC). State humanities councils are the independent nonprofit partners of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and were created with two goals in mind: (1) advancing knowledge and understanding of the humanities and (2) increasing public awareness of, access to, and support for the humanities in the US.
In our early years, activity consisted almost exclusively of making grants to nonprofit organizations with funds provided by the NEH. 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 that were working to build the programming capacity of small historical societies, museums, art centers, libraries, senior centers, and community groups.
As our work progressed, we decided in 2013 to re-envision our future by focusing strategically on areas of need in Pennsylvania where the humanities can have the greatest impact: community building and education. Since our shift in strategy, we reflected on how far we’ve come as an organization and, in 2021, decided to rebrand as PA Humanities to better reflect the work we do. As we move into the future, we are always finding new ways to put the humanities in action to create positive change with people and communities across the Commonwealth.