Closer Readings Commentary

Summer Days & Nights with the NEH

"Summer Night by the Beach" by Edvard Munch (1902-1903)
Photo caption

"Summer Night by the Beach" by Edvard Munch (1902-1903)

Soon the summer
Now the pleasant purgatory
Of spring is over.

“Soon the City” by Liam Rector

Summer means relaxation filled sunny days and vacations to places new and familiar. Whether you are taking a long road trip, visiting an area museum, or spending time with friends and family at home, you will find that the National Endowment for the Humanities is just around the corner (or already in your hands).

This collection of resources highlights NEH sponsored programs available across the country and includes projects aligned with some of the 50th anniversary events being commemorated this summer—most notably Stonewall, the moon landing, and Woodstock. No matter your summer plans, you don’t have to go far to enjoy a NEH sponsored exhibition or program.

Of course, when you do enjoy a NEH sponsored project, be sure to share your experiences with us on Twitter at @NEH_gov and @EDSITEment, and on Facebook. Use #NEHgrant or #NEHeducator to connect with a network of scholars, learners, and public humanities enthusiasts.

Summer with the NEH

NEH on the Road—Is there a NEH sponsored exhibit near you? Would you like there to be? NEH on the Road provides ready-to-go exhibits for organizations and classrooms. Learn if one is currently available near you and how to set one up on your own.

State Humanities Councils—Learn what’s happening in your state this summer as a result of programming supported by the Federal and State Humanities Councils partnership that brings state councils and the NEH together.

National Humanities Alliance—Our friends at the National Humanities Alliance are on top of all NEH related events, exhibits, and more. Check out what is happening in your area this summer and all year long.

American Routes—Summer is a great time for a road trip to a particular destination or just to see where the highways and byways take you. Supported by NEH Public Programs, American Routes blends music, history, and great stories to fuel your travels across the United States.

Backstory—This weekly podcast uses current events in America to take a deep dive into our past. 

Summer Reading List for Kids—A list of summertime reading for children compiled by the NEH. 

Summer Reading List for Adults—A list of books recently published with support from the NEH.

NEH-Funded Library Programs—Planning to visit your local library this summer? This digital map created by the NEH Alliance shows you where NEH-funded library projects are taking place across the country. 

Summer Shakespeare—From the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, the NEH has a long history of supporting greater access to the works of the Bard. If you can’t attend one of the many outdoor Shakespeare performances held across the country this summer, you can still read, watch, and listen to the works of Shakespeare with any of these NEH supported resources:

Olmstead Parks—Perhaps you are planning a picnic or family gathering in a park this summer. Are you meeting in a Frederick Law Olmstead designed park? Check out the NEH supported PBS film on Frederick Law Olmstead Parks and this NEH article on "Space and Place in the Humanities."  

NEH in June

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.

—"More Than Enough" by Marge Piercy


LGBT month was first celebrated in the United States in 1994, but at that time, the month of October was chosen as it corresponded with National Coming Out Day held on October 11th. In 2000, President Bill Clinton proclaimed June to be LGBT History Month in recognition of the Stonewall Riots that occurred in New York City in June 1969 and often credited with marking the start of the modern gay rights movement.

The NEH has supported numerous projects aimed at educating the American public about LGBT history. Archival projects, films, and more are available for you to visit and view during June and beyond.

Summer Sounds—Summers are filled with free outdoor music and music festivals, and to get you ready, we offer the NEH supported Jazz Loft Project and the popular American Routes.  

Happy Birthday, Walt!—This year marks the 200th birthday of great American poet Walt Whitman. The NEH has supported a number of archival projects on Whitman, including Looking for Whitman and the Walt Whitman Archive.

Humanities for Your Ears—A collection of NEH Public Programs' sponsored podcasts for the backyard, a bike ride, or a day at the beach. 

NEH in July

Of course I regret it. I mean there I was under umbrellas of fruit
so red they had to be borne of Summer, and no other season.

—"The Woman Who Turned Down a Date with a Cherry Farmer" by Aimee Nezhukumatathil


Constitution USA—This NEH supported PBS program documents the travels of Peter Sagal as he sets out to answer the question “Does the Constitution have what it takes to keep up with modern America?” Great for celebrating the Fourth of July or your own road trip, be sure to check out Constitution USA.

“One small step for [a] man…”—On July 20, 1969, three astronauts from the United States landed the Apollo 11 aircraft on the surface of the moon, thus fulfilling President Kennedy’s dream of reaching the lunar landscape before the end of the decade. To mark the 50th anniversary of this historic event, the NEH is sponsoring the PBS American Experience film Chasing the Moon that looks at how they and our country reached that goal.

Burnham’s Cityscapes—If you live in or are traveling to Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Boston, New Orleans, or Bar Harbor, Maine, you can visit just some of the more than 500 structures completed across the country by Mr. Daniel Burnham. The NEH sponsored “Make No LIttle Plans” looks at his urban designs and their place in the cultural and historic landscape of American cities.

NEH in August

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

—"Blackberry-Picking" by Seamus Heaney


Electric Anthem & Woodstock—For three days in August 1969, a small farm in Upstate New York became the cultural center of the United States. Billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music,” August 2019 marks 50 years since the Woodstock Music Festival closed with Jimi Hendrix performing his electrifying version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” The NEH supported Public Radio International project looks at Hendrix’s performance, with interviews and audio clips of the performance that occurred on August 15, 1969.

Summers at the Ballpark—Baseball fans fill major and minor league ballparks across the country each year. The NEH sponsored project Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American looks at the intersection of Major League Baseball, immigrants, and minority populations in the United States. This project is produced in collaboration with the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Summer Reading & Viewing

Summer is also a time to catch up on the backlog of books, articles, and films you have been holding off on. NEH Divisions of Research, Digital Humanities, Public Programs, and Preservation & Access sponsor numerous grant projects that result in publications for a variety of readers and audiences. A sampling of projects to move to the top of your summer list is below: