Medieval Projects earn grants from NEH

Two medieval projects have been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). One project will develop an interactive jousting computer game for a museum, while the other will create a seminar for high school and college teachers about Islamic civilization in Iberia during the Middle Ages.

Over $31.5 million in grants for 201 humanities projects were announced by the NEH last week. This funding will support a wide variety of projects, including the production and development of radio and television programs, digital scholarly resources, professional development for teachers and college faculty, and the development and staging of museum and library exhibitions.

The Higgins Armory Museum in Massachusetts has received a $50 000 Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant for its project Virtual Joust: A Technological Interpretation of Medieval Jousting and Its Culture.  According to project director Jeffery Forgeng, the museum will be creating a virtual jousting game, which will make use of a Nintendo Wii remote embedded in the stub of a replica lance; this interacts with a Flash-based game projected on a screen. The game even allows players to create their own heraldic designs, which are incorporated into the gameplay visuals. Mr. Forgeng told that a team of undergraduate students have been working on this game for about a year, trying to create “an immersive jousting experience.”

The Virtual Joust is set to become a permanent feature at the Higgins Armory Museum, which is the sole museum in the Western Hemisphere devoted to arms and armour. Mr. Forgeng added that the current generation of museum-goers want to experience some interactive elements during their visits. Using new technology will help people “envision themselves in a joust.”

E. Michael Gerli of the University of Virginia also received close to $120 000 for his project on Medieval and Early Modern Islamic Iberia. The project will take sixteen teachers from around the United States to Spain for a 4 week seminar in the summer of 2011.

In his proposal to the NEH, Professor Gerli said that, “Islamic Iberia generally fails to form part of western European cultural history in today’s school and college curriculum. To find courses on it, let alone minimal reliable information about it in history and civilization courses among the offerings of American high schools and universities is extremely rare. Yet, it is obvious that not just the cultural history of Iberia but of Europe remains incomplete without some deeper knowledge of this “lost” civilization. The proposed seminar is thus significant for several reasons: 1). Because it seeks to address this exclusion and examine Islamic Iberia’s place in western cultural history from the perspective of a complex borderland, a cultural bridge and porous interface that, if carefully considered, remains decisive for understanding the flow of customs, ideas, and institutions from the East to all of Europe during the Middle Ages; and 2), through the sixteen secondary school teachers who would participate, and the institutional effect they may subsequently have, it will seek to insert, even if minimally, an awareness of Islamic Iberia into the broader historical and cultural consciousness of contemporary American education.”

Teachers participating in the project will initially go to the University of Virginia’s Study Center in Valencia,  where they will attend lectures, visit museums, and take field trips to local sites. After two weeks, the seminar will begin to move around Spain, visiting cities which were the main centers of Iberian Islamic civilization, including Córdoba, Granada, Seville, and Toledo.

The NEH is funding a wide variety of projects related to American or World History. One project will provide digital textual analysis of 15 editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Other grants will support an interactive digital simulation of the experiences of Japanese Americans in wartime internment camps in the Arkansas Delta, and allow the Folger Library to mount a traveling exhibit on the history and influence of the King James Bible.

“The NEH grants announced today seek to discover, preserve, and share the stories that have shaped us,” said NEH Chairman Jim Leach. “Whether through continuing education opportunities for teachers, public debates on issues of civility and democracy, or the development of digital scholarly and educational tools, these projects underscore the power of the humanities to enrich our understanding of our history, our society, and ourselves.”

Click here to read a complete state-by-state listings of grants

Source: National Endowment for the Humanities

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