NEH Grants Go to LACMA Expansion, ‘Living’ Dred Scott History Museum, and Met Chia Oil Project

The National Endowment for the Humanities has given out $24.7 million to grants to an array of arts spaces, researchers, and historical sites, with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art receiving some of the biggest amounts for future projects.

LACMA got a $500,000 match grant for the construction of galleries in a controversial expansion designed by Peter Zumthor. Those galleries, which are named for trustee David Geffen, who pledged $150 million toward the museum in 2017, are expected to do away with the boundaries that have historically sectioned off parts of LACMA’s displays by era and style. The NEH grant is expected to defray the costs of putting up light-blocking curtains, custom case displays, and more.

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LACMA also got a $100,000 grant for a digital exhibition guide for the show “The World Made Wondrous: The Dutch Collector’s Cabinet and the Politics of Possession,” which will explore crosscurrents in the European market of centuries past. The Met, meanwhile, received $349,999 for a project focused on chia oil in Mexican lacquerware and painting.

Other grants are intended to fill in art historical gaps. Art historian Sarah-Neel Smith received $60,000 for a research project entitled “Uncovering the Lost History of the American Art World’s Engagements with the Middle East, 1957–1979,” which she plans to develop into a book. The University of California, Los Angeles received more than $310,000 for an education program dealing with the preservation of Indigenous artifacts.

Still other recognized projects look to unfold the very notion of the museum and realize new possibilities for it. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor got $50,000 to offer a workshop for museum leaders that will help them expand digital accessibility at their respective institutions. Audrey Bennett, a graphic design scholar, is heading up that initiative. Meanwhile, Oakwood University, a historically Black school in Hunstville, Alabama, received more than $129,000 to found a “living history museum” devoted to Dred Scott, an enslaved African American man who filed a famed lawsuit for his freedom in 1856 and that he ultimately lost when it went before the Supreme Court. That one-year project will be called “That Dreded Life.”


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