Community Case Studies


This report demonstrates how the humanities can help communities throughout the U.S. thrive. All communities have an interest in preserving and celebrating their histories, addressing injustice, and building bridges and understanding between different community groups. Through the examples of Nogales, Rapid City, and Charleston, this report demonstrates how humanities organizations and humanities work are integral to thriving communities:

  • In Nogales, Arizona, local leaders are leveraging the humanities to change narratives about life on the border, build local pride, support youth, and invigorate their economically struggling downtown. 
  • In Rapid City, South Dakota, organizations working in education, social services, and the arts are leveraging historical research and cultural knowledge to overcome decades of anti-Native racism and division and support vulnerable populations. 
  • And in Charleston, South Carolina, groups are leveraging historical research, education, and preservation to acknowledge the city’s role in the international slave trade, celebrate the contributions of Gullah Geechee people, and preserve their community in the face of overdevelopment and climate change.

Read the Case Studies

Our Community Case Studies illuminate the comprehensive impact of the humanities in three diverse communities, illustrating how humanities work helps communities thrive.

Read the Case Studies

Our case studies overview includes two-page introductions to each community and are meant to be a resource for advocates and policymakers.

Read the Overview


This report is based on deep qualitative interview research and researcher observations. Between May 2021 and March 2023, NHA staff conducted 128 semi-structured interviews with individuals involved in cultural work in the case study communities. Interviewees answered questions about their personal backgrounds and the history of their organizations, programs, initiatives, partners, and funders. They responded to questions about the developments shaping their regions and the role their organizations played in responding to local challenges, as well as questions about the issues and challenges facing their organizations and sectors.

Over the course of the project, we also supported many of our partners in their work by helping them develop and administer surveys as part of our broader effort to build the capacity of humanities institutions to tell their stories.

Additional Resources

In addition to case studies on how the humanities impact community life, NHA has a range of resources aimed at helping advocates make the case for the humanities on the local level. Our report, State and Local Policies that Support the Humanities: A Clearinghouse is meant as a companion to the case studies, providing examples of effective policies that humanities advocates can champion. We also have resources to help you document the impact of your community-oriented work and engage with policymakers in your community.

State and Local Policies That Support the Humanities: A Clearinghouse

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Documenting the Community Impact of Your Humanities Program: A Toolkit

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In-District Advocacy Guide

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NEH for All

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