Past Programs

North Carolina Humanities’ public humanities programs and grant funding opportunities have woven together cultures and communities for more than three decades. Here are just some of the activities we have offered in recent years. 

North Carolina Humanities routinely partners with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) to bring high-quality traveling exhibitions to small towns and rural communities in North Carolina. With support from NC Humanities, the selected host venues develop complementary exhibits and programming that showcase local histories and cultures to increase understanding and dialogue.

Museum on Main Street is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils nationwide. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. 

Water/Ways (2020-2021)
In 2020-2021 NC Humanities toured the Smithsonian Institute’s Water/Ways exhibition. The exhibit explored the relationships between people and water – environmentally, culturally, and historically. The exhibit examined water as an essential natural resource that allows us to travel, determines where we live, controls what we eat and drink and inspires culture. The Water/Ways tour in North Carolina was supported by the National Humanities Center, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina Sea Grant, NC Water Resources Research Institute, and Our State Magazine. The following cultural organizations were selected by NC Humanities to host the exhibit: 

  • Macon County Public Library, Franklin
  • Wake Forest Historical Museum, Wake Forest
  • NC Estuarium, Washington
  • Wrightsville Beach Museum, Wrightsville Beach
  • Alamance Community College, Graham
  • Yancey County Public Library, Burnsville

Looking to learn more about Water/Ways? Download and print the official North Carolina Water/Ways Coloring Guidebook! 

The Way We Worked (2018)
In 2018 NC Humanities toured the Smithsonian Institute’s The Way We Worked exhibition. The exhibit showcased American workers performing a diverse array of jobs that power our society and contribute to our shared culture. The Way We Worked tour in North Carolina was made possible by support from the Porter Durham Family. The following cultural organizations were selected by NC Humanities to host the exhibit:

  • Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society, Mt. Pleasant
  • Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, Blowing Rock
  • Cowan Museum of History & Science, Kenansville
  • Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville
  • Historical Association of Catawba County, Newton
  • Mountain Heritage Center, Cullowhee

Hometown Teams (2015)
In 2015 NC Humanities toured the Smithsonian Institute’s Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America exhibition. The exhibit explored the value of sports in history ranging from ancient Cherokee Indians with anetso, the ancestor of modern day lacrosse, to current day professional teams such as the Carolina Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes. The following cultural organizations were selected by NC Humanities to host the exhibit:

  • Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, Mount Airy
  • Wake Forest Historical Museum, Wake Forest
  • Waterworks Visual Arts Center, Salisbury
  • Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center, Harkers Island
  • Transylvania County Library, Brevard
  • Iredell County Public Library, Statesville

Journey Stories (2012)
In 2012 NC Humanities toured the Smithsonian Institute’s Journey Stories exhibition. From Native Americans to new American citizens, regardless of our ethnic or racial background, everyone has a story to tell. The exhibit examined the tales of how we and our ancestors came to America. The following cultural organizations were selected by NC Humanities to host the exhibit:

  • Pender County Public Libraries, Burgaw
  • The Museum and Archives of Rockingham County, Wentworth
  • Mountain Heritage Center, Cullowhee
  • North Carolina Museum of the Coastal Plain, Wilson
  • North Carolina Transportation Museum, Spencer
  • Robeson County History Museum, Lumberton

New Harmonies (2010)
In 2010 NC Humanities toured the Smithsonian Institute’s New Harmonies exhibition. The exhibit took rural communities in North Carolina on a journey through the development of Americans’ creative expression through music. The following cultural organizations were selected by NC Humanities to host the exhibit:

  • Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, Mount Airy
  • Warren County Memorial Library, Warrenton
  • Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City
  • Arts Council of Wayne County, Goldsboro
  • Rural Heritage Museum, Mars Hill
  • Don Gibson Theatre, Shelby

Fostering Informed Citizens (2018-2019)
With today’s fast-paced, 24-hour news cycle, this two-year special initiative explored the role the media and journalism have in illuminating historical, social, and ethical issues critical to a flourishing society. It also focused on providing educators, students, and the general public with news literacy skills – the critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports and information sources – that help build a more fruitful democracy.

This initiative included the popular “Can We Talk: It is possible for us to disagree with grace again” program. NC Humanities with Queen’s University of Charlotte presented this two-part forum where audiences learned how to make conversational conflict useful, rather than toxic. Noted journalist and author Amanda Ripley shared how she discovered her own shortcomings in conversations about polarizing issues and participants then learned to apply these skills to their own experience.

Events were part of the national “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” Initiative administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and made possible in part by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Conversations on the Legacy of Race and Ethnicity in North Carolina (2017)
This special initiative engaged North Carolina communities in conversations that used our state’s rich cultural heritage (foodways, music, literature, history) and humanities scholarship to create safe spaces for cross-cultural interactions and understanding. Initiative events were partially funded by a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Events included a series of panels, workshops, and presentations exploring what it means to be Latinx in the South, a community conversation titled “Keith Scott Shooting, 1 Year After. What Have We Learned?” with Consolidated Media Alliance, and more. 

Let’s Talk About It (2001-2022)

Public libraries are essential resources for reading, literacy, imagination, dialogue and access to information and ideas. As such, libraries are important partners for North Carolina Humanities for the delivery of programs and grants to communities across the state, especially in rural areas.

During the past two years, NC Humanities has undertaken a broad examination of its mission and strategic intent which led to changes, both large and small, in our offerings. Among the outcomes of this work are more diverse reading and discussion programs, developed in consultation with librarians, library stakeholders, and community members. The process has also resulted in the difficult decision to retire a long-standing offering, “Let’s Talk About It,” in its current format.

“Let’s Talk About It” was an in-person library discussion series that brought community members together to explore books and films from a selection of humanities themes. The program began in 2001 with assistance from the State Library of North Carolina and was halted in March 2020 due to in-person safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Let’s Talk About It” has exemplified the need for programs that encourage literacy, critical thinking, and foster safe spaces for conversation.

Since 2020, NC Humanities’ board and staff have researched and implemented new programs that connect North Carolinians, in-person and virtually, through shared reading experiences. NC Humanities remains committed to bringing communities together in ways that spark dialogue and build connections. NC Humanities continues to work with the State Library of North Carolina and other partners like the Library of Congress to ensure high-quality, educational programing.

Through our new reading and discussion programs North Carolinians and libraries benefit from more no-cost, easy-to-use reading, and discussion resources than ever. Delivering free, accessible resources for lifelong learning is critical to NC Humanities’ mission.

One of our newest programs started in 2022, North Carolina Reads, is a statewide book club about American perseverance and diversity. North Carolina Reads is one of the only statewide book clubs in North Carolina and has already proven to be an essential program resource for local, community-based book club groups and regional libraries. Librarians, community leaders, community book clubs, and individuals across North Carolina can participate in book club discussion events starting in February 2023.

If you are a previous “Let’s Talk About It” scholar or host library, NC Humanities encourages you to:

  • Participate in a book program offered by NC Humanities;
  • Organize and host local reading and discussion programs using the materials and resources NC Humanities offers;
  • Explore available NC Humanities grants for funding a reading project idea of your own.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of and supported “Let’s Talk About It” over the last 20+ years. Although the program has run its course, its spirit lives on in a new generation of NC Humanities offerings. NC Humanities looks forward to reading and learning with you now and in the future.

If you have questions please leave us a voice message at 704-687-1520 or email Melissa Giblin, Director of North Carolina Center for the Book, at


The Linda Flowers Literary Award was given to North Carolina authors whose original, unpublished works of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry celebrated the North Carolina experience and conveyed excellence in writing. 

NC Humanities continues to support writers and authors through North Carolina Center for the Book programs and various partnership programs around North Carolina, including the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

List of Winners

Humanities at the Heart of Health Care® (2011-2017)
This reading and discussion program for health care professionals allowed participants to share their reflections with their colleagues. Health care professionals were proven to better empathize with their patients and collaborate with one another after taking part in this program. The program was created by Maine Humanities Council.

The Power of Words (2016)
Through nearly 30 statewide events, this special initiative highlighted the way Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism, literature, and drama influence our world. The project was part of The Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative, a joint venture of the Prizes Board and the Federation of State Humanities Councils, in celebration of the 2016 centennial of the Prizes. This initiative sought to illuminate the impact of journalism and the humanities on American life today, to imagine their future, and to inspire new generations to consider the values represented by the body of Pulitzer Prize-winning work.

Road Scholars (1990-2020)
This humanities-based traveling lecture program brought the public a variety of presentations which explored the nuances of culture, identity, and community. The lecture catalog included presentations focusing on North Carolina’s national and regional historical legacies, regional folklore, oral histories, the theory and history of North Carolina arts and crafts, the analysis of literary works, and more.

The Humanities and the Experience of War (2015-2016)
North Carolina Humanities operated a special grants category in 2015 and 2016 to support North Carolina projects that emphasized the role of the humanities in helping Americans to understand the experiences of service members and in assisting veterans as they return to civilian life.

Teachers Institute (1996-2013)

The Teachers Institute program designed and implemented its own weekend and week-long content-based professional development seminars for North Carolina teachers and scholars. Topics of study included “From Wilderness to Eden? The Place of Nature and Culture in North Carolina History,” “Contemporary Tar Heel Writers,” “The American Indian Seminar Series,” and many more.

(2020-2021) Watershed Moment, a two-year special initiative, used the lens of journalism and the humanities to examine significant environmental issues impacting North Carolina and beyond.

The keystone program was the Statewide Read of The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi as the adult text and Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman as the young adult text. NC Humanities, in partnership with Working Films, also brought multiple screening of the film series Revisioning Recovery: Uncovering the Roots of Disaster and interactive discussion groups to a variety of communities across the state. NC Humanities also presented the Smithsonian Institution’s Water/Ways exhibition in six North Carolina communities. 

Watershed Moments was part of the national initiative on “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” administered through the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Thank you for your submission!