National Endowment for the Humanities Funds RIT Preservation/Research Projects

Grants help preserve 20th century design archive and fund analysis of modern slavery

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Laura W Nelson

National Endowment for the Humanities grant recipients Benjamin Lawrance, right, and Kari Horowicz stand in front of the entrance to the Cary Graphic Arts Collection in the Wallace Center. Lawrance, named an NEH Fellow, will use his grant to conduct a study on modern slavery in Africa. Horowicz and her colleagues Amelia Hugill-Fontanel and David Pankow will utilize the funds they received to preserve the Cary Collection’s archive of 19th and 20th century advertising posters.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded two 2011 humanities project grants to Rochester Institute of Technology to promote the development of humanities research and education on campus.

The grants were awarded to the Wallace Center at RIT to assist in preserving the university’s Cary Graphic Arts Collection and to Benjamin Lawrance, the Barber B. Conable Jr. Endowed Chair in International Relations, to support an investigation of modern slavery in Africa.

“NEH is the central federal agency devoted to preserving and enhancing art, culture and the social sciences in America,” notes Donald Boyd, RIT’s vice president for research. “RIT is committed to promoting excellence in humanities education and scholarship and we are very honored to have received multiple awards for our research and preservation efforts.”

The Wallace Center received a Preservation Assistance Grant through the NEH We the People Initiative. Funds will be used to improve the storage of nearly 2,000 19th and 20th century posters that are part of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, which tracks the history of graphic design in America.

The poster archive includes work produced by American artist Edward Penfield to promote Harper's Magazine from 1896 to 1899 and U.S. government-issued posters from both World Wars encouraging public support for the war effort.

“The Wallace Center is delighted to benefit from the NEH We the People initiative, a program designed to support the study and understanding of American history and culture,” says Amelia Hugill-Fontanel, assistant curator at the Wallace Center. “This grant will further our conservation efforts in safeguarding these important poster collections, while improving their accessibility to the RIT community for teaching and scholarship.”

Hughill will direct the preservation project along with David Pankow, curator and director of the Cary Cultural Collection, and Kari Horowicz, art and photography librarian for the Wallace Center.

Lawrance received an NEH Fellowship for University Teachers to conduct the study, Africa’s Stolen Childhood: The Illegal Enslavement of African Children in the 19th and 20th Centuries. He will investigate the development of forced child slavery, its use as an economic and military tool in numerous regions in Africa and ongoing efforts to end the practice and promote the reintegration of former slaves into society.

“Child slavery has a long history in Africa and continues to be a common practice in many nations,” Lawrance adds. “It is my hope an examination of its history and the cultural and economic drivers that have assisted its continued use will ultimately help us eliminate it as a tool in modern Africa.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities, founded in 1965, is an independent federal agency dedicated to supporting preservation, research and public programs in the humanities.