Maine Humanities Council

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Located in Portland, Maine, the Maine Humanities Council was founded in 1975 as a private nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is one of 56 humanities councils in the United States and its territories.

The organizational mission states: “The Maine Humanities Council engages the people of Maine in the power and pleasure of ideas, encouraging a deeper understanding of ourselves and others, fostering wisdom in an age of information, and providing context in a time of change. The Council uses the humanities to provide cultural enrichment for all Mainers and as a tool for social change, bringing people together in conversation that crosses social, economic and cultural barriers.”

The Council’s programs are statewide. They include literacy and reading and discussion initiatives for child care providers and preschoolers (Born to Read), adult new readers (New Books, New Readers), rural Mainers and summer and year-round communities (Let's Talk About It), and health care professionals (Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care, which was created by the Council and has traveled to other states, becoming a national model). The Council also offers a program for Maine teachers that introduces new content and new topics (Teachers for a New Century). The Council also offers Letters About Literature, a national program from the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress that encourages young people to write letters to their favorite authors, living or dead. In 2006, Lacy Craven, a Maine participant in this program, was a national winner.

In 1997, the Council incorporated into its organizational structure the Harriet P. Henry Center for the Book. The National Center for the Book was established in the Library of Congress in 1977 to promote books, reading, libraries, and literacy. The Maine Humanities Council established the Harriet P. Henry Center for the Book as one of the Maine state affiliates of the national program. It is one of only eight state humanities councils to be awarded this responsibility.

While most of the Council's work is in direct public humanities and educational programs that bring people together around books, it is also a grantmaker. Since 1976, the Council has distributed over $4 million in grants to Maine libraries, museums, historical societies, colleges, schools, literacy groups, adult education programs, towns, and other organizations.

In 2002, the Council's Literature & Medicine program was named as a Patient Quality Initiative by the Maine Hospital Association. The program then received the 2003 Helen & Martin Schwartz Prize for Excellence in Public Programming from the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The Council's national awards include a 1998 Award of Merit from the American Association of State and Local History for the Century Project and the 1998 Helen & Martin Schwartz Prize for Excellence in Public Programming given by the Federation of State Humanities Councils for the Odyssey Project. Most recently, the Council received three national awards for its Taxing Maine program: the Award of Merit and the WOW award from the American Association for State and Local History and the 2007 Helen & Martin Schwartz Prize from the Federation of State Humanities Councils. "Taxing Maine" is now available on the Council's Humanities on Demand podcast.

The Council is located on Brighton Avenue in Portland, Maine.