The Michigan Humanities Council, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, opened its doors in 1974 to begin public humanities programming. Almost 50 years ago the idea of public humanities was a novel concept because the humanities had traditionally been associated with university study in departments such as English, philosophy, ethics, and the other areas termed the liberal arts. But, public humanities were meant to draw communities into the humanities rather than leave the field to academicians. This brave new world of collaborations between town and gown, between the National Endowment for the Humanities and state organizations was daunting, but it catalyzed a vigorous examination of what the humanities mean to contemporary life.
Throughout its life, the Michigan Humanities Council has understood that the humanities teach us what it means to be human. They illuminate the lessons of the past, the ideas that motivate us, the principles that guide us, and the questions that perplex us. We live in a complicated and interconnected world. People who are equipped to bridge divides between people, cultures, and ideas are better positioned to build strong engaged communities. Humanities instills in all of us empathy and compassion, along with critical thinking and communication skills. Michigan Humanities looks forward to uplifting the work and voices of those bridging Michigan communities.