On March 20, 2017, Inside Higher Ed published an article by Cathy N. Davidson and Francine Berman on “Saving Our Heritage.”
As Davidson and Berman write:
The Trump administration’s new budget blueprint proposes the effective elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities, write Francine Berman and Cathy N. Davidson. Is that the value we place on our cultural inheritance and its future?
On March 3, 2017, the Syrian army recaptured Palmyra, the ancient city, archaeological treasure and UNESCO World Heritage Site that had endured destruction and looting at the hands of ISIS. The Syrian government declared the victory “highly significant” for the morale of the army and the Syrian nation. Protecting a country’s history, as the military knew, is as precious as preserving human life. When you destroy heritage, you rob the memories and diminish the heart of a whole people.
On that same day, as it happened, the National Endowment for the Humanities was presenting a program in Washington on the importance of historic conservation and preservation against the threats of war, malice, weather or time. Professor Debra Hess Norris, an art historian, curator and conservator at the University of Delaware and director of the Winterthur Museum’s program in art conservation education, spoke about the remarkable work she and her colleagues and students have undertaken to restore and preserve the world’s artifacts.
Norris’s specialty is the recovery and conservation of documents on paper, whether the Dead Sea scrolls, the Declaration of Independence, damaged photos from early arctic expeditions or family photographs recovered from the Texas floods, Hurricane Katrina or a devastating house fire in rural Ohio where a grandmother and three young boys lost their lives. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and other federal and private philanthropic agencies, Norris has not only saved our heritage but has also trained half of the nation’s photographic preservationists to ensure that heritage endures for future generations.
What is a country without its heritage? That question has been given new urgency now that the White House has released its budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018. This budget sets the total funding of the National Endowment for the Humanities at zero dollars, effectively proposing elimination of the agency. Is that the value we place on our cultural inheritance and its future? Zero? That is the question we must ask ourselves as a nation.
Read the full article here.