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National Endowment for the Humanities gives $2 million in grants to Southern California

Projects at Huntington Library, USC, UCLA and Pacific Symphony are given money.

May 02, 2011|By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times
  • Carl St.Clair conducts "A Tchaikovsky Portrait," which was part of Pacific Symphony's 2009 "Music Unwound" series, at Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. The music series, as well as some other Southern California fine arts projects, was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Carl St.Clair conducts "A Tchaikovsky Portrait," which was… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced $2 million in grants to Southern California arts and cultural institutions.

Among other things, the money will enable USC librarians to bring 34,000 historic photos of 1920s and '30s Los Angeles into public view via the Internet and help the Pacific Symphony press forward with its "Music Unwound" series, a bid to enhance the concertgoing experience by adding visual projections and slices of acting to the proceedings.

The biggest grant, $405,000, will fund research fellowships at the Huntington Library for three years, allowing the Huntington to engage three scholars each year for research on its collections. Another three-year grant, totaling $267,000, goes to the Getty Research Institute to fund resident postdoctoral fellowships.

USC will get $300,000 to make digital images from negatives in its 500,000-image collection of pictures from the Dick Whittington Studio, an L.A. commercial photography enterprise from the mid-1920s until its founder's death in 1985. Dace Taube, the librarian who heads the effort, said the grant will fund creating and posting digital copies of nitrate negatives from 1924 to '34, capturing the pictures before they deteriorate. "It's a wonderful resource for all kinds of research," she said, including the clothes Angelenos were wearing, the cars they were driving and the sports they were playing — as well as the look of the city during that time.

Another grant to USC — $50,000 — will help fund an effort to develop a prototype for a tabletop device that museums can use to allow visitors to browse their digital collections. As a "test case," the effort will use the AIDS Memorial Quilt, made up of more than 40,000 panels, each commemorating a person with AIDS.

UCLA received a $300,000 grant for "Making Invisible Histories Visible," an effort to sift through and digitize 80 manuscript collections and audio-visual material that documents lesbian and feminist activism and writing since the 1930s. UC Santa Barbara will receive $300,000 to continue work on its online "Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (1900-50)."

The Pacific Symphony led a consortium of four orchestras in securing a $300,000 grant to augment performances with multimedia and informational elements, and to help use concerts as the basis for festivals involving museum exhibitions and instructional sequences at schools.

"We don't get a lot of applications from symphonies," said NEH spokeswoman Paula Wasley, because the humanities endowment's mission typically doesn't include funding performances, which falls to its sister federal grant-making agency, the National Endowment for the Arts. But funding the educational component of "Music Unwound" is within the NEH's scope. The grant supports two programs, "Dvorák and America" and "Copland and Mexico," to be performed by the Pacific Symphony and its grant partners, the Buffalo Symphony, North Carolina Symphony and Louisville Orchestra.

"Orchestras are moving to new concert formats," and this is a bid to help them incorporate new approaches into their regular subscription series instead of making them isolated attempts, said Joseph Horowitz, the New York City-based music scholar who serves as artistic advisor to the Pacific Symphony and is in charge of the grant. "We're hoping to create templates that can be used by other orchestras as well."

The NEH issued a $50,000 grant for "Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race," a feature-length film on the L.A. mayor by Lyn Goldfarb.

mike.boehm@latimes.com

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