Grant — Reviewers’ Reports

As you know, our NEH ACHO grant did not get funded.  Here are the reports from the reviewers.  I think we should be very proud of the overall ratings — it looks like we should revise & resubmit.  Strangely, it seems like we need to justify our “humanities team.”  Our final ratings were 3 Very Goods and two Goods.  Note that in the preliminary ratings, we had two Excellents, so something happened in the discussion with panelists bringing down our proposal.  Usually you need to have mostly Excellents to be funded.

-Allison

March 29, 20012

Dr. Allison Marsh
Assistant Professor
University of South Carolina
History Department
Columbia, SC 29208-0001

Re: GE-50567

Dear Dr. Marsh:

I am writing with information about why your proposal, Exhibiting Local Enterprise, did not receive funding in the most recent round of competition. I would like to outline the review process and provide you with a complete set of the panelists’ written comments for your information.

As with all applications submitted to the NEH, your proposal was read and discussed by knowledgeable persons outside the agency, who advised the Endowment about its merits. NEH’s staff commented on matters of fact or on significant issues that otherwise would have been missing from these evaluations and made recommendations to the National Council on the Humanities. The National Council meets at various times during the year to advise the NEH chairman on grants. The chairman took into account the advice provided during the review process and made all funding decisions, as is prescribed by law.

In evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal, reviewers were asked to address the significance of the topic, its potential audiences, the degree of collaboration between scholars and other project personnel, the qualifications of the project team, and the potential of the project to engage the public in humanities issues, ideas, and perspectives.

As noted above, copies of the panelists’ written evaluations of your proposal are enclosed. Please keep in mind that these evaluation sheets were completed before the panelists discussed the proposals, and panelists’ opinions and ratings sometimes change after exchanging views with their colleagues. In cases where there is a change in rating, we ask panelists to add a note to the evaluation sheet explaining their decision.

I hope that this material clarifies the Endowment’s review process for you. Even though your application was not funded, resubmission is always possible, and failure to gain support in this round of competition does not prejudice an applicant’s chances for reconsideration. Please see our Web site (www.neh.gov) for a list of upcoming deadlines.

If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to call me at (202) 606-8290, or send me an e-mail message at bbays@neh.gov. Thank you for your interest in the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Sincerely,
Barbara Bays
Senior Program Officer
Division of Public Programs

Copy: Mrs. Lumi Bakos, Sr. Sponsored Program Administrator

Enclosures: Panelists’ evaluation sheets

Panelist 1

1. Intellectual content: The likely contribution of the project to public understanding of the humanities, including the significance of the subject and the humanities ideas; the quality and relevance of the humanities scholarship informing the project; the extent to which the project offers an analytical perspective on the themes and ideas that underlie it.

Good ideas and intellectual content is strong. Remains a little unclear how this relates to the humanities; that should be strengthened

2. Audience: The appeal of the subject to a general audience, the accessibility of the ideas, and the quality of the project’s plan to reach broad audiences.

I wondered how this project would be distributed, and what it’s target audience is

3. Format: The appropriateness, quality, and creativity of the concept for organizing and presenting the material to advance the project’s intellectual goals; and the likelihood that the chosen format will effectively convey the humanities content to the audience. For multiformat projects, the likely complementarity of the various components.

4. Program resources: The appropriateness of the materials and resources that support the project’s interpretive themes and ideas.

resources are good

5. Justification for higher funding: If the application requests higher funding, the strength of the case for the complexity of the project, the involvement of multiple institutional partners, the combination of several different program formats, and the breadth of the project’s public appeal and reach.

good partnership with other institutions

6. Venue selection and training (only for Dissemination Project applications): If the application is for a Dissemination Project (for a program that travels to twenty or more venues), the geographic breadth and audience reach of the project; the quality of the criteria and process used to determine the host venues; and the quality of the training offered to representatives of the host venues. 

7. Humanities team and project team: The qualifications and potential contributions of the advising scholars; the experience and technical skills of the project team; the quality of the project team’s previous work; and the likelihood that the institutional partners will collaborate effectively. 

strong humanities team, but could be strengthened by adding more scholars outside of the institutions

8. Work plan: The likelihood that the applicant will achieve the project’s goals in a timely and efficient manner.

9. Budget: The appropriateness and reasonability of the project’s costs. 

10. Overall Evaluation: Please summarize the major reasons for your rating.

Strong in terms of goals of ELE; strong basis with USC and partnership with NMAH. Main problem is how ELE would be distributed and what exactly it would entail. But maybe that’s what a planning grant is for? Also, might appear too closely associated with the graduate program, and less with the museums

Not much in terms of humanities scholars outside of USC

Preliminary Rating: VG: Very Good

Additional comments after panel discussion:

Unclear humanities content — project needs a humanities team. Project is too vague in terms of how it would work, and what the implementation would mean — how the ELE would be distributed.

Final Rating: G: Good
Panelist 2

1. Intellectual content: The likely contribution of the project to public understanding of the humanities, including the significance of the subject and the humanities ideas; the quality and relevance of the humanities scholarship informing the project; the extent to which the project offers an analytical perspective on the themes and ideas that underlie it.

Plan to test learning modules of on-line exhibits on the business history of a mill in South Carolina and a company in Kodiak, Alaska. The goal is to incorporate local institutions into a larger project on “American Enterprise.” I suppose one could argue that efforts to connect local stories and national history is a key project of the humanities. Promises as well to engage “cutting edge scholarship, new media, and core principles of museum theory.” Project will also take up a recent turn in business history that incorporates histories of science, culture, politics, and the environment. The proposal suggests the complex nature of business enterprise–the benefits, failures, and unanticipated consequences.

2. Audience: The appeal of the subject to a general audience, the accessibility of the ideas, and the quality of the project’s plan to reach broad audiences.

In the long run, ELE will use local exhibits and new technologies to bring broader audience to American Enterprise. But during this planning phase, the audience is as much local museum professionals as the audiences they serve. Take up important challenge of finding resources to tell local stories.

3. Format: The appropriateness, quality, and creativity of the concept for organizing and presenting the material to advance the project’s intellectual goals; and the likelihood that the chosen format will effectively convey the humanities content to the audience. For multiformat projects, the likely complementarity of the various components.

I understand that the beta test phase of this project is meant to do exactly this–to test whether or not the format achieves the project’s intellectual goals. Will visitors have a better understanding of business? Will they be curious to learn more about business? Will they make new connections between their lives and the story of the nation? Will they have a new understanding of what it means to be a producer or a consumer? And so on. Clear sense of questions and goals.

4. Program resources: The appropriateness of the materials and resources that support the project’s interpretive themes and ideas.

The ELE is building on intellectual and curatorial expertise behind the Smithsonian exhibit on American Enterprise. That exhibit has provided the project’s interpretive themes and ideas. It seems smart (perhaps efficient) to extend these ideas to different venues and to invite speculation on the ways local histories might alter the Smithsonian’s big national story.

5. Justification for higher funding: If the application requests higher funding, the strength of the case for the complexity of the project, the involvement of multiple institutional partners, the combination of several different program formats, and the breadth of the project’s public appeal and reach.

N/A

6. Venue selection and training (only for Dissemination Project applications): If the application is for a Dissemination Project (for a program that travels to twenty or more venues), the geographic breadth and audience reach of the project; the quality of the criteria and process used to determine the host venues; and the quality of the training offered to representatives of the host venues.

N/A

7. Humanities team and project team: The qualifications and potential contributions of the advising scholars; the experience and technical skills of the project team; the quality of the project team’s previous work; and the likelihood that the institutional partners will collaborate effectively.

Promising collaboration among South Carolina Public History Program, the Smithsonian, and Baronov Museum. Plan is to involve mid-sized cultural institutions in exhibitions on “American Enterprise.” Seems to make good use of talented and committed graduate students in the public history program at USC and a USC alum who is now a curator in Alaska. Professor Marsh brings impressive experience and excellent credentials to the project. (Maybe a bit too quick to emphasize the role of USC alums, but I quibble.)

8. Work plan: The likelihood that the applicant will achieve the project’s goals in a timely and efficient manner.

Plan to bring together partners–at sites and at annual Business History Conference–to evaluate learning modules for first two exhibitions. Meetings are necessary to evaluate the on-line exhibits?

9. Budget: The appropriateness and reasonability of the project’s costs. 

The request is for $70K, primarily to cover travel costs to allow the teams to meet in person. The planning grant will cover a course buyout for project director and offer some funds for co-directors and for a graduate assistant and cover expenses for quarterly meetings. The proposal makes a strong case of the need for these face-to face meetings as key to the assessment process. Some funds are set aside for images and the rights to their reproduction.

10. Overall Evaluation: Please summarize the major reasons for your rating.

I appreciate emphasis on efforts to bring local history into conversation with national developments as well as the project’s pledge to remain open to the stories from local partners that might change the themes developed at the Smithsonian. Overall, this seems a very well-focussed and carefully developed project with clear and well-articulated goals.. It seems appropriate to support it to the next phase.

Preliminary Rating: E: Excellent

Additional comments after panel discussion:

Promising idea to create a platform that might be shared among many small museums but concern about the absence of a team of scholars to help the planners articulate the themes and goals of the exhibits. It is not entirely clear how the plans will lead to next steps.

Final Rating: VG: Very Good
Panelist 3

1. Intellectual content: The likely contribution of the project to public understanding of the humanities, including the significance of the subject and the humanities ideas; the quality and relevance of the humanities scholarship informing the project; the extent to which the project offers an analytical perspective on the themes and ideas that underlie it.

Business history has taken on new relevance in the recent economic turbulence, and this project is poised to add to the historic perspective by enabling smaller museums to create online exhibits with site specific content. While much of the project activity is process oriented, the goals established by NMAH will guide the content development in the partner sites. The bibliography provides resources that will be useful to participant museums.

2. Audience: The appeal of the subject to a general audience, the accessibility of the ideas, and the quality of the project’s plan to reach broad audiences.

Although the aggregate reach of the project has the potential to reach multiple audiences throughout the country, the planning grant has two specific audiences. Focus on the needs of the participating museums and their visitors will serve as a productive lens by which to guide the project and measure success.

3. Format: The appropriateness, quality, and creativity of the concept for organizing and presenting the material to advance the project’s intellectual goals; and the likelihood that the chosen format will effectively convey the humanities content to the audience. For multiformat projects, the likely complementarity of the various components.

Very well thought-out, the work done to date has created a vision for the learning models and identified the 21st century learning skills that will be supported by the online exhibitions. The expectation that each institution will create an online presence that aligns with its mission, brand and voice built within a proven format keeps the project lively and creative.
Learning models created by graduate students are an excellent way to anticipate the kinds of support that an emerging professional will encounter.

4. Program resources: The appropriateness of the materials and resources that support the project’s interpretive themes and ideas.

This project is well-resourced in access to content, technological expertise, and scholarly discourse. USC brings the energy and contemporary perspective of graduate students, who not only add to the discussion during the project period, but who will also help implement the project as they enter the workplace.

5. Justification for higher funding: If the application requests higher funding, the strength of the case for the complexity of the project, the involvement of multiple institutional partners, the combination of several different program formats, and the breadth of the project’s public appeal and reach.

This is a project with national impact in several ways. Not only does it create an opportunity for communities across the country to add local content to the narrative of American Enterprise, it also provides specific tools and instruction that will strengthen the technological capacity of participating institutions. The dual benefit of adding value for the audience and the participants is particularly appealing.

6. Venue selection and training (only for Dissemination Project applications): If the application is for a Dissemination Project (for a program that travels to twenty or more venues), the geographic breadth and audience reach of the project; the quality of the criteria and process used to determine the host venues; and the quality of the training offered to representatives of the host venues. 


n/a

7. Humanities team and project team: The qualifications and potential contributions of the advising scholars; the experience and technical skills of the project team; the quality of the project team’s previous work; and the likelihood that the institutional partners will collaborate effectively.

The partner institutions and project team members bring distinct strengths that will support the success of the endeavor. Each has a clearly defined role, and an established connection to ELE. Partnering with the Baranov Museum will be an excellent test of the challenges and opportunities inherent in a long distance partnership supported by technology. The team also represents a continuum of work on ELE, with a former graduate student providing a link between the planning and the implementation of a prototype. Although this team does not convene a panel of scholars, the humanities are represented in the planning done to date, and will be included in the work done at partner sites

8. Work plan: The likelihood that the applicant will achieve the project’s goals in a timely and efficient manner.

Excellent work plan, with responsibility assigned and a feasible pace. The in-person quarterly meetings are important, allowing for a different kind of exchange than by conference call or email.

9. Budget: The appropriateness and reasonability of the project’s costs. 

Appropriate for the project. The investment in travel is necessary for the project participants to effectively meet the goals of ELE

10. Overall Evaluation: Please summarize the major reasons for your rating.

Outstanding proposal for an ambitious and enterprising project that has the potential for lasting impact in itself and serving as a model for replication in museums who wish to collaborate on other nationally relevant subject matter.

Preliminary Rating: E: Excellent

Additional comments after panel discussion:

I continue to feel that this project has considerable merit, and would add strengh to the field as well as content for the public. The missing pieces are a scholar panel for each site, and a clear description of what sort of implementation plan would emerge from this process.

Final Rating: VG: Very Good

Panelist 4

1. Intellectual content: The likely contribution of the project to public understanding of the humanities, including the significance of the subject and the humanities ideas; the quality and relevance of the humanities scholarship informing the project; the extent to which the project offers an analytical perspective on the themes and ideas that underlie it.

Innovative idea to train local (especially rural and isolated) museums to develop on-line exhibits about business history. The plan is based on an extensive review of relevant scholarship, and cutting edge technology

2. Audience: The appeal of the subject to a general audience, the accessibility of the ideas, and the quality of the project’s plan to reach broad audiences.

On-line exhibits could promote both local museums and reach any audience with computer access

3. Format: The appropriateness, quality, and creativity of the concept for organizing and presenting the material to advance the project’s intellectual goals; and the likelihood that the chosen format will effectively convey the humanities content to the audience. For multiformat projects, the likely complementarity of the various components.

Developing pilot modules and using them for training seems sensible, though proposal is not always precise as to how the training will work to ensure local staff, without access to tech support, will develop their own exhibits

4. Program resources: The appropriateness of the materials and resources that support the project’s interpretive themes and ideas.

Project team will draw on public historians, museum directors, and graduate students

5. Justification for higher funding: If the application requests higher funding, the strength of the case for the complexity of the project, the involvement of multiple institutional partners, the combination of several different program formats, and the breadth of the project’s public appeal and reach.

6. Venue selection and training (only for Dissemination Project applications): If the application is for a Dissemination Project (for a program that travels to twenty or more venues), the geographic breadth and audience reach of the project; the quality of the criteria and process used to determine the host venues; and the quality of the training offered to representatives of the host venues. 

7. Humanities team and project team: The qualifications and potential contributions of the advising scholars; the experience and technical skills of the project team; the quality of the project team’s previous work; and the likelihood that the institutional partners will collaborate effectively.

Teams have historical skills, museum skills, an technical skills

8. Work plan: The likelihood that the applicant will achieve the project’s goals in a timely and efficient manner.

Work plan is detailed and clearly delineates responsibilities for the entire team

9. Budget: The appropriateness and reasonability of the project’s costs. 

Questions about paying for course release, travel to Alaska, and $10K for reproduction rights

10. Overall Evaluation: Please summarize the major reasons for your rating.

Strong on its innovative approach to supporting small and isolated museums, and new ways of presenting business history–Some questions about specific of training and budget

Preliminary Rating: VG: Very Good

Additional comments after panel discussion:

Project shows promise–especially the technological platform and framing questions behind the proposed on-line exhibits. Yet the proposal, by focusing on testing two on-line exhibits, and providing no broader team of scholars, may be appropriate for a digital humanities grant, not a broader planning grant.

Final Rating: G: Good

Panelist 5

1. Intellectual content: The likely contribution of the project to public understanding of the humanities, including the significance of the subject and the humanities ideas; the quality and relevance of the humanities scholarship informing the project; the extent to which the project offers an analytical perspective on the themes and ideas that underlie it.

build small instn. capacity by training for small-biz exhbts.
‘enliven and prsnlz. am. biz hist.’
‘competition, innovation, oppty., and the common good'(?) [tho does address ‘failure’ ‘hardship’]
skips 1830s-1920s: why?
21st-c. skills: what’s that (carefully detailed and matched to diff. tasks)

2. Audience: The appeal of the subject to a general audience, the accessibility of the ideas, and the quality of the project’s plan to reach broad audiences.

3. Format: The appropriateness, quality, and creativity of the concept for organizing and presenting the material to advance the project’s intellectual goals; and the likelihood that the chosen format will effectively convey the humanities content to the audience. For multiformat projects, the likely complementarity of the various components.

online learning modules AND online exbts. (olympia mills, and alaska comm’l.)…per smithso. am. entrprs. (2014)–way to reach out to local auds.
‘network’: so do they overlap?
where’s overall msg.
mix of struc. and msg. as point

4. Program resources: The appropriateness of the materials and resources that support the project’s interpretive themes and ideas.

omeka open-source toolkit,,,usc classes and nmah support

5. Justification for higher funding: If the application requests higher funding, the strength of the case for the complexity of the project, the involvement of multiple institutional partners, the combination of several different program formats, and the breadth of the project’s public appeal and reach.

6. Venue selection and training (only for Dissemination Project applications): If the application is for a Dissemination Project (for a program that travels to twenty or more venues), the geographic breadth and audience reach of the project; the quality of the criteria and process used to determine the host venues; and the quality of the training offered to representatives of the host venues.

7. Humanities team and project team: The qualifications and potential contributions of the advising scholars; the experience and technical skills of the project team; the quality of the project team’s previous work; and the likelihood that the institutional partners will collaborate effectively.

A bit limited.

8. Work plan: The likelihood that the applicant will achieve the project’s goals in a timely and efficient manner.

1/4ly mtgs.

9. Budget: The appropriateness and reasonability of the project’s costs. 

10. Overall Evaluation: Please summarize the major reasons for your rating.

Idea of sharing tools and development skills is great; content is a little bland. Well-articulated in terms of learning development; social dynamic aspect is vague or assumed. Maybe tying it into actual enterprise projects, or targeting underprivileged populations, or some way to make ‘enterprise’ theme work on several levels more explicitly.

Preliminary Rating: VG: Very Good

Additional comments after panel discussion:

So: are they asking for support of the program? or of the technology platform?

Final Rating: VG: Very Good

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2 thoughts on “Grant — Reviewers’ Reports

  1. Boo! I’m disappointed that we didn’t get funded, but we did get some excellent feedback. It’s good to see that some of the reviewers really get what we are trying to achieve and are enthusiastic about it.

  2. I think that it’s very helpful for students and anyone applying for a grant to be able to see the results of the review process. Thanks for posting this.

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