As part of the national effort, “Humanities at the Crossroads,” CIRCLE collaborated with Indiana Humanities to study the network of public humanities in the Hoosier state.
The study considered a wide range of institutions that play essential roles in our civil society. Encompassing museums, public schools, art councils, and cultural centers, these organizations convene citizens and serve as important venues for civic engagement.
Through disciplines such as history, archaeology, literature, art, philosophy and religion, the public humanities give explicit attention to questions of ethics and values. As one participant in our study said, “I think that people appreciate the opportunity to come together and discuss pertinent topics. I do believe they see these activities as enrichment and community-building opportunities.”
The study was innovative in its use of network analysis to investigate a set of organizations and individuals that address civic purposes together. Civic renewal does not depend solely on separate organizations and programs, but also on how they collaborate and interact. This opportunity to assess the network of organizations in one domain of civic work in one state will serve as a model for further research on civic engagement.
We found a large number of people and organizations concerned with the humanities in Indiana. By surveying an original sample known to Indiana Humanities and asking respondents to name others with whom they work, we found 2,147 individuals thought to be involved in the humanities within the state. Of those, 390 gave us data on their own activities.
Respondents indicated that the humanities are as popular, or more popular, than in the past, and that their activities contribute to the “sense of place” that every community wants to enhance. We also found that humanities organizations in Indiana are lean and longstanding. More than 20 percent have been in existence for a century or more, though funding sources for the humanities are flat or in decline.
Our network analysis revealed significant findings that would have otherwise been difficult to discern. We learned that three organizations served as key statewide hubs for the organizations we surveyed; in various Indiana regions, community foundations, libraries, and other institutions were local hubs. Working with and connecting hubs is a valuable strategy for strengthening a network.
We did not detect a statewide network organized around the humanities per se. Historical associations were prominent, and arts organizations also played important roles. Although history is certainly one of the humanities, the lack of a network for the humanities more broadly presents challenges. For example, it makes it harder to connect the community-based humanities to universities, where literature is a much larger field than history.
These and many other findings are presented in Felicia M. Sullivan, Nancy N. Conner, Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Peter Levine and Elizabeth Lynn, “Humanities at the Crossroads: An Indiana Case Study” (CIRCLE, in collaboration with Indiana Humanities, 2014).