When the Orioles became this year’s American League East Division Champs and you talked about the last time they vied for the World Series (surprise!) you were participating in a discussion of history and the humanities. When you join a book club or attend a discussion on the issues surrounding the ethics of environmental change, you are experiencing the humanities in action. When you research your family history, you use the humanities. The humanities help us learn throughout our lives and challenge us to consider new ideas and points of view. They celebrate both diverse backgrounds and our shared heritage. The humanities nourish our curiosity and prepare us for a lifetime of learning.
The Maryland Humanities Council (MHC) recently released a five-year strategic plan and a newly revised mission. Our new mission not only better reflects our programming, it also reaffirms our vision for Maryland where the humanities are understood as central to everyday life: MHC creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. We envision a Maryland where the humanities are understood as central to everyday life because they help us reflect on the past, understand the present, and shape the future. The result will be a state where thoughtful and informed Marylanders are committed to a lifetime of learning that invigorates and strengthens our democracy through an open-minded exchange of ideas.
Perhaps when you hear the term “lifelong learning” the image of seniors attending a scholarly lecture comes to mind. It can be that. But at MHC we literally mean a lifetime of learning, which is why our programs range from curricula-aligned in-school programs to public programs open to learners of all ages. MHC school programs teach children important critical thinking, writing, and research skills but also inspire them, challenge them, and prepare them for a lifetime of curiosity and inquiry. In 2014, two Western Maryland students took home a gold medal at the National History Day contest among other state award winners, but the 23,000+ students who competed around our state also received a vitally important educational experience. This year MHC began professional development classes for teachers in Baltimore City and beyond on Maryland History Day. How many of you have attended a Chautauqua living history performance and learned something about a historical figure that you never knew before? Our radio program, Humanities Connection, provides a window into the humanities every week on WYPR 88.1fm.
The humanities foster learning about ourselves and the world around us because they explore the human experience. Being better educated has many benefits—you can get a better job, have a deeper understanding of others, and you may be more civically engaged, self-aware, and curious about the world around you and more connected to others.
Collaborations and partnerships are at the core of MHC’s work. In the coming years we will continue to deepen existing relationships while building new strategic ones to expand our audiences, some that may have little to no experience learning through the humanities. Partnerships, as always, will play a crucial role. What is One Maryland One Book without our strong partnerships with Maryland libraries around the state? Historical societies play an important role for students working on Maryland History Day projects. Chautauqua host sites are some of our longest-running partners. The Museum on Main Street “Hometown Teams” exhibition, set to travel Maryland in February 2015, provides professional development and support to our community partners hosting the exhibition who deliver the program locally.
Our Grants program allows allied humanities organizations the opportunity to develop programs statewide using the humanities to address needs specific to their communities. A recent example of this is the Migrant Clinicians Network, who received MHC support to produce the exhibition “Work. Respect. Dignity: Shared Images and Stories of Maryland’s Eastern Shore Immigrants,” which was displayed at the Salisbury University Downtown Campus Gallery. Photojournalist Earl Dotter documented the lives and stories of immigrants and those who serve them on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Migrant Clinicians Network organized panel discussions and outreach programs. The project connected and educated the public and provided meaningful discussion pertinent to residents’ lives.
For more than 40 years, the Maryland Humanities Council has brought humanities education to Marylanders statewide, and we have plans for significant growth in the next six years. But we cannot do this important work without you. Help us to make the humanities central to Marylanders’ lives.
We invite you to take a look at a summary of our new strategic plan. Have you attended one of our programs or do you belong to a partner organization and want to share your thoughts? We invite your feedback. You can comment below or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “feedback” in the subject line. We truly cannot make this next leap without you. I invite you to join us for the next phase of our growth and success.