PA Humanities and Drexel University have launched the PA Humanities Discovery Project, an effort to map, network, and celebrate Pennsylvania’s wonderfully rich humanities landscape to build a more expansive and connected statewide community for sharing, learning, and advocacy.

The first step is to collect information from Pennsylvanians like you about what important humanities-centered work you and your organization are doing with an online survey.

Don’t wait to participate! The survey closes on December 5, 2022.

You may be asking yourself, what are the “humanities”?

Many think of the humanities as the liberal arts classes we all took in school like English, social studies, music and art. The humanities include the things we learned about in those classes, but they are also much more than that. 

The humanities definition is broad and includes cultural, community, and neighborhood groups who work to make and keep human connections through the sharing of human experiences. Storytelling, historical perspectives, personal interpretation, creativity, and deliberative conversations are the tools that the humanities provide everyday people.

Two people standing on a porch looking at posters.
Dillsburg Heart & Soul volunteers share about their team’s findings at the annual Farmers Fair. Photo courtesy of PA Humanities.

Preservationists, historians, archaeologists, and anyone who works with older and historic places to connect stories, time, people, and place for a greater understanding of the world we all live in today are part of that definition of the humanities. 

You may recall some of our posts highlighting humanities work in this post and this post about PA Humanities’ PA Heart & Soul work. Not sure how archaeology is part of the humanities? Take a minute to read this post.

What is the PA Humanities Discovery Project?

The PA Humanities Discover Project is a research effort conducted jointly by PA Humanities and Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media, Arts, and Design. The project’s goals are to:

  • Understand who across the state is building community using the humanities (even if they wouldn’t necessarily call it that),
  • Understand how cultural and humanities practices are used by people in their professional or volunteer work,
  • Build a learning community to spark new connections and collaborations,
  • Promote stories and findings to grow support and funding for the humanities.

Funding for this project comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

What is the survey?

The survey is the first step to gather information about Pennsylvanian’s experiences with the humanities across the commonwealth. Taking the survey is how you can be a part of the Discovery Project.

Through the survey, PA Humanities and Drexel University is interested in understanding what you do, how you describe it, why it matters, and how it impacts the people who participate.

Your answers are anonymous. They will be kept strictly confidential and will only be used in the analysis of the survey. You can learn more about how your responses will be used in these FAQs.

The survey should take about 20 minutes to complete. You can preview they survey questions in English, Spanish, and Chinese languages.

Should you take the survey?

In short, cultural and humanities workers and anyone who works to make their community a better place are encouraged to take the survey.

In terms of PA SHPO’s community, this broad audience includes (but is not limited to!) historic preservation practitioners in all forms, historians, archaeologists, storytellers, educators, community organizers, and people who seek to provide pathways for communities to learn, discuss and think critically about their lives, their histories, and the world around them through older and historic places.

Group of men and women standing together in a room talking and looking at a poster on the wall.
Residents of Upper Chichester gathered for the PA Heart & Soul event “A Real Conversation About the Future of Upper Chichester”. Photo courtesy of PA Humanities.

Don’t think this applies to you? Then please pass it on through your network! Chances are you know at least one person who is doing cultural and/or humanities work in Pennsylvania.

Why should you take the survey?

Here are a few good reasons…

  • Join a movement to give a voice and recognition to the work that you do.
  • Receive special invitations to network/learn with other participants.
  • Gain early access to select research results/materials.
  • Have your work highlighted to a statewide and national audience in a report.
  • Be an advocate for the interests of the broader humanities community.

Oh, and this reason! Ten survey participants will be selected in a random drawing to receive a gift basket or $50 gift card from a local Pennsylvania company such as Miller’s Bakery in Lancaster or Prantl’s Bakery in Pittsburgh.


There is a lot of great information on the PA Humanities website that couldn’t adequately be covered in this post, so take a few minutes today to check it out.

You can find a summary of the project, key information about participating, FAQs, a preview of the survey, a promotional toolkit you can use to share this opportunity with your network, and who to contact for more information. These resources are provided in English, Spanish, and Chinese languages.

We here at PHMC and PA SHPO are proud to support the launch of the PA Humanities Discovery Project. Don’t miss this chance to help tell the first-ever story of the humanities across Pennsylvania!