From canoeing down the White River to distributing 1,000 books at festivals across the state, to promoting Indiana Humanities, my summer as Indiana Humanities’ grants and programs intern has been full of exciting, challenging and eye-opening activities. I’ve walked away from these experiences a little more knowledgeable about humanities work and in awe of the people who make it all possible.
I’ve come to especially admire the partners that Indiana Humanities works with—people who have used resources we provide (be it funding, toolkits, guidance or other support) to promote a spirit of inquiry, produce life-changing programs and build stronger communities.
Indiana Humanities has been collaborating with others since our founding in 1972, and today the variety of initiatives we support amazes me. As an intern, I’ve been in the fortunate position to read and hear the stories of our incredible partners and to see some of their projects in person. During my time here, I’ve made it my mission to learn more about the extraordinary work they do and to share it with the Indiana Humanities network—in a sense to promote the “humans of the humanities.”
One reason I admire our partners is because of their ability to see a problem and passionately address it. For example, at the Indiana Medical History Museum in Indianapolis, Executive Director Sarah Halter and her colleagues recognized that the museum isn’t fully accessible to everyone: many visitors can’t get to the second floor (the museum is in the old pathology building at the former Central State Hospital), and people who are hard of hearing have difficulty following the guided tours. To solve this problem, Sarah and her team worked with developers to create an app that they now offer on iPads at the museum. The app is equipped with American Sign Language interpretations, videos and pictures of all of the rooms and artifacts, as well as written and automated stories that bring the museum to life. Indiana Humanities helped fund the app with one of our grants, and through this support, Sarah and her colleagues have ensured that a broader audience can fully engage with and benefit from the humanities.
That’s one thing I love about humanities work: it is for everyone, including children. Another reason I value Indiana Humanities’ partners is because they work to positively influence children, inspiring them to be curious and to discover. On a hot afternoon I tagged along with Girls Inc. of Johnson County on a trip they took to the Indianapolis Zoo as part of their Wondrous World program. This program featured a series of activities aimed at teaching girls ages 5 to 12 about women in the field of nature, science and history, in an effort to engage them in those subjects. Through an Indiana Humanities grant, Cristal Nevins, the program director, planned various activities for the girls; they took nature walks, raised butterflies, went on field trips and much more. While eagerly waiting to see an orangutan up close at the zoo, a few of the girls told me how much they’ve loved the Wondrous World project. Many of them noted their aspirations to become chemists, conservationists and historians because of the women they have met and learned about. Thanks to community leaders such as Cristal, the humanities can truly inspire and transform.
In the small town of Delphi, we’ve been proud to work with the library to implement our One State/ One Story: Frankensteininitiative, which celebrates the 200thanniversary of the famous novel. Kelly Currie and Portia Kapraun have leveraged funds from Indiana Humanities to develop wide-reaching programs that have brought their community together in new and innovative ways. Kelly and Portia note that they’ve used Frankensteinas a tool to promote important conversations around the impact of science and technology—topics that can be hard to approach. Activities have ranged from costume contests, to book clubs, to film discussions and even an original musical production called Robots! A Modern Opera. The latter, which drew a large audience to Delphi’s recently restored opera house, raised questions surrounding automation and the ethics of technology—and served as an excellent example of how our partners are bringing Hoosiers together around the humanities to think, read and talk.
The past three months brought many memories but meeting with and learning about these partners is something I will never forget. And the best news? There are hundreds of more stories similar to these. Everywhere in Indiana organizations and people are collaborating with Indiana Humanities to create new programs and engage audiences. What’s truly making a difference are the people. They are the leaders, the allies and the humans of the humanities.
Julia Bartusek is a senior at Butler University studying Peace and Conflict, Political Science and Organizational Communication and is originally from New Prague, Minnesota. She aspires to pursue a career in public policy and law as well as attend graduate and law school. Julia is passionate about civic engagement and human rights.
Blake Williams is a graduate of Ball State University from Indianapolis. While at Ball State he studied Telecommunications with a concentration in Video Production. He is working towards a career in filmmaking to further explore his passion for storytelling.