Past Programs

Commonwealth Forums

Commonwealth Forums logoThe Commonwealth Forums are a series of public events based on the reporting in MassINC`s quarterly magazine, CommonWealth. The Forums were a joint project from 1999 through 2002 of The Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), an independent, nonpartisan think tank, and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. DETAILS

Commonwealth Humanities Lecture

Commonwealth Humanities Lecture imageEach year beginning in 2004 and ending in 2007, in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), a widely respected non-partisan think tank and publisher of CommonWealth magazine, the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities recognized a humanities scholar or writer for his or her contributions to public understanding of contemporary issues or civic affairs in Massachusetts. The scholar selected for this honor delivered an original and substantive address at a public event at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington. The lectureship carried a $5000 award. DETAILS

Commonwealth Journal

Commonwealth Journal logoFrom 2000-2002, the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities co-sponsored WUMB‘s Commonwealth Journal an award-winning weekly, half-hour radio program hosted by Barbara Neely featuring interviews with writers, scholars, cultural workers and public officials examining current topics and issues of particular interest to Massachusetts listeners. DETAILS

Imagining Robert

Imagining Robert logoIn 2001 and 2002, the Imagining Robert film and dialogue series was a collaboration of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and Florentine Films/Hott Productions. The film, based on the book by Jay Neugeboren, tells the story of two brothers, Jay, a prize-winning writer and former UMass writing professor and his brother, Robert, who has been in and out of mental institutions for 38 years. It was the centerpiece of a series of public screenings meant to foster dialogue about mental illness and its impact on families. Each public screening was designed to bring people from different backgrounds – patients, families, police, social workers, lawyers, health-care providers – together in a non-crisis situation.  Read MassHumanities article about Imagining Robert. DETAILS

Massachusetts Center for the Book

Massachusetts Center for the Book logoThe Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities supported the Massachusetts Center for the Book, a nonprofit organization, is the state affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Its mission is to promote books and reading in the Commonwealth: expanding the circle of readers, deepening appreciation for literature and book arts as vital parts of the state’s cultural heritage and its economy, and emphasizing the central role that libraries play in civic and cultural life. DETAILS

Picturing America

Picturing America is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, that brings reproductions of 40 masterpieces of American art into classrooms and libraries nationwide. Mass Humanities has created a pre-planned exhibit of 9 sets of the images, each on a theme, which can be exhibited in turn. Since NEH has also made the images available online, anyone with an internet connection can also use these brochures to look at the images and explore the themes. DETAILS

Traces of the Trade: Massachusetts and the Economy of Slavery

Traces of the Trade screeningIn Commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, Massachusetts and the Economy of Slavery featured screenings of the discussion version of Katrina Browne’s documentary Traces of the Trade at various historical sites in Massachusetts, paired with archival materials, and followed by discussion of the centrality of the business of slavery to the Massachusetts economy prior to the Civil War as well as the “traces” of this economy in our economy and landscape today. DETAILS

An (Un)Civil Action: A closer look at violence in Massachusetts history

uncivilTo mark the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry Armory, “An (Un)Civil Action“ features screenings of excerpts of the documentary, John Brown’s Holy War, at various sites in Massachusetts, paired with archival materials about violent action in Massachusetts history, and followed by discussion of the issue of civic violence – violent action between or against citizens and (government) institutions – and our civic responsibilities. DETAILS

Traveling Humanities Seminar

Traveling Humanities SeminarMass Humanities’ Traveling Humanities Seminars provided humanist-led cultural experiences to small groups of travelers on thematic excursions to Cuba. Mass Humanities coordinated these trips with partners to provide rare opportunities for people-to-people cultural exchanges. DETAILS

Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam graphicFrom 2002 – 2003, Understanding Islam was a reading and discussion program which offered the general reader an opportunity to explore the roots of Islam and some of the most important issues facing Muslims today. Through four meetings devoted to a range of topics, the program presented a picture of the Muslim world and its intellectual, cultural and religious dimensions. The series began where the tradition itself does, with the career of Muhammad and the revelation of the Qur`an. The themes discussed in this first session echo throughout the remainder of the meetings. The model of the Prophet and the monotheist values which he taught informed discussions of literature, the place of women in the household and in society at large, and politics and society. DETAILS

Understanding the Modern Middle East

Understanding the Modern Middle East graphicUnderstanding the Modern Middle East, developed as a sequel to the very successful  Understanding Islam reading and discussion program. This program ran from 2004-2006 in various libraries across the state. It used a single text as background for a series of lectures and discussions examining these issues. In BETWEEN MEMORY AND DESIRE: The Middle East in a Troubled Age, R. Stephen Humphreys integrates the medieval and modern history of the Middle East to show how the sacred and secular are tightly interwoven in its political and intellectual life. The book is available from our resource library for use in a library reading and discussion program. DETAILS


Note: In 2008,  the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities changed its name to Mass Humanities.