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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

NEH grants over $260,000 for traveling history exhibit

History Professors to serve as Curators

Two UALR Department of History professors, Dr. Jess Porter and Dr. Charles Romney, will be co-curators of a traveling exhibit to accompany Ken Burns’ acclaimed Dust Bowl documentary.

The $263,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities provides public programming, film screenings, and scholarly presentations to accompany the exhibit, according to Porter and Romney, co-curators of the exhibit.

They will work with an interdisciplinary, multi-campus team of geographers, historians, librarians and exhibit designers from the American Library Association, Mount Holyoke College and Oklahoma State University.

“Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry” explores the history and impact of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. The yearlong exhibit will travel to 40 libraries across the United States beginning April 2014.

Watch The Dust Bowl Preview on PBS. See more from The Dust Bowl.

Porter said he and colleagues at Oklahoma State University have collaborated before on different Dust Bowl-themed projects. Porter also provided his expertise on the Dust Bowl region and its impact on present-day inhabitants for the Weather Channel series When Weather Changed History.

When the American Library Association reached out to Oklahoma State about a traveling exhibit to capitalize on the buzz of the Dust Bowl documentary, Porter said the team contacted him to see if he would be interested in curating.

“While I have lots of Dust Bowl experience, I have no experience in public history projects,” he said. “Therefore Dr. Romney was the perfect complement, and two co-curators emerged.”

The ALA has had some success with the model before, Burns’ baseball film being one example, Porter said.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent, federal agency that awards nationally competitive grants to humanities projects. This year, the NEH received 118 applications and funded only 16 projects in the exhibit category.