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FUNDING REQUEST FOR A HUMANITIES PROJECT

Dear Ms. Nii,

 

Thank you for your email about the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center’s new humanities initiative. I am always delighted to learn of an organization devoted to the humanities, and I wish you all the best with this exciting endeavor.

 

Sincerely,

Drew Faust, President of Harvard University

 

We need $2 million dollars for:

1) Building an arts and humanities library in our Mansard roof area with windows that overlook the scope of Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline and the Williamsburg Bridge;

2) Buying computers and other equipment for digital research and digital publishing;

3) Hiring staff to direct ongoing programs for this project;

4) Pay stipends to outside scholars for lectures and research and a publishing director;

5) Design and publish a catalog for our Milton and humanities collections; and

6) Major publicity and promotion of the kickoff in 2017.

The WAH Center and the Yuko Nii Foundation are requesting funds to develop an innovative program to enhance and increase awareness of our classical heritage in Western languages, literature, and involving visual arts. In the International New York Times in 2013, an article appeared with the title “As Interest Fades in the Humanities, Colleges Worry.” There are perhaps a number of factors that go into that, but certainly one of them is that our broader society does not take an interest or has lost interest, perhaps because they are more captivated by TV, movies, or the glittering attractions of the internet. So, Terrance Lindall, recognizing this, is using these new tools to bring Milton to the broader culture. He has created a digital video and publishing program that has been quite successful.

 

We believe that the secret to effective inspirational teaching of humanities and the classics in English literature is to make the work being presented come alive. How do you do it with John Milton’s great epic Paradise Lost? The WAH Center has done it over the past 20 years with the illustrations, recitations, and plays of Paradise Lost - by Terrance Lindall and his colleagues - that have been broadly presented at our art center and via the internet. The illustrations have been also used on book covers by Simon & Schuster’s Random House, The Paradise Lost Companion of Cambridge University Press and in Holt Rinehart & Winston’s 2009 high school English Literature textbook, with a first run of 370,000. Publishers recognize that a strong attractive image will create interest. A YouTube video of Lindall’s Paradise Lost is also the most viewed of all Milton recitations on YouTube with over 121,000 views, more than any other presenter, many very famous, such as Ian Richardson. And in 2008, Lindall created the world’s largest 400th birthday celebration for John Milton that got major coverage in the New York Times and around the world:  

 

In 2012, Lindall created the Williamsburg Circle of International Arts and Letters with a membership of major scholars, authors, and collectors. Lacking funds to hire staff to oversee the project, we put it on hold until funding can be provided. This is the funding request for an expanded vision of the idea.  

 

Lindall’s Paradise Lost even appeared in Heavy Metal Magazine, and artwork by Terrance Lindall for “Paradise Lost” is featured on a website for a digital humanities project, “Milton Revealed,” directed by UC Berkeley emeritus professor of English Hugh Macrae Richmond, that received a $2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation last year. With the grant, UC Berkeley will be making major advances in the integration of digital tools and technologies in humanities scholarship and teaching.

 

Colleges and universities do not promote humanities broadly because their greater function is to prepare people for the workplace. Our project will present public humanities events. In this project, known individuals/scholars in the arts or academic communities will read from classics in literature and poetry once a month followed by a discussion of the selected works with the audience. We will also introduce several new writers and illustrators each Sunday with the idea of finding authors and illustrators who might be eligible for on-line publishing, thus helping them reach the public. This may be followed by a musical presentation of classical music or jazz. A rotating exhibit of historical books, art, and artifacts (visuals) enhancing interest in the material being read and discussed will be on display in our historic 1860’s national landmark building. The project will run from September thru June of each year and take place in the Coffee House we are currently creating (that we also have not yet named). Naming privileges are offered to major donors all throughout our building.  

 

Our civilization depends upon our reception and use of great ideas, not only in science and industry to ease our production of food and shelter and communication, but in producing a code of ethics so we might live in harmony with one another. The latter seems to be the most difficult. The social contract is a difficult thing, and although the concept of humanism seems to indicate that we can create a common set of rules so men might live happily with one another we are far from achieving this. As Thomas Hobbes suggested, Man being reasonable, and recognizing the rationality of this basic precept of reason, men can be expected to construct a Social Contract that will afford them a life other than that available to them in the State of Nature, id est, a state of continual competition and conflict. This is something to be worked on and addressed. With our project, we will continually remind our audience of that need by showing how great thinkers and writers have explored - through literature, poetry, or philosophy - the issues of our common needs and our interactions that either create conflict and unhappiness or enhance and make our lives worthwhile and fulfilled!

 

The purpose of the project is to bring a new audience to humanities outside of the university setting or to bolster or reinvigorate the current audience of classical literature and poetry and to show the connectedness of current literature, poetry and the arts to the classics . . . the golden chain.  

 

THE GOLDEN CHAIN Great books with ideas that have effectually motivated men and altered history are what Haven O’More refered to as “The Golden Chain.” Benefactors of humanity from supreme acts of the human mind, like John Milton, are preserved by collectors as well as universities and scholars. The original works in their purest form from the original manuscript or first edition down through the latest editions along with all that scholars have revealed about those supreme works by study and contemplation are the Golden Chain. Having in hand a copy of a book or manuscript that is as closely linked to the original great mind as possible is the electric experience of touching the Golden Chain. All who advance knowledge of those supreme works, the collectors and scholars, also become part of that Golden Chain of great ideas spanning the ages, from which Golden Chain hangs our current civilization like in Milton’s concept of our earth. “ Empyreal heaven . . . with opal towers and fast by hanging in a golden chain this pendant world.” We like the idea of “pendant.” Our civilization depends upon our reception and use of great ideas, not only in science and industry to ease our production of food and shelter and communication, but in producing a code of ethics so we might live in harmony with one another.

 

Library

 

We also want to build a library and exhibition room in our currently vacant Mansard roof area. We have just recently finished stabilizing the cornice and will be putting on a new flat roof. This library will be accessible primarily to students, scholars, artists, writers, and more.

 

Publishing

 

We have currently developed a publishing program. We freely upload essays or stories on ISSUU magazine. Those that attract interest we publish on Amazon’s Kindle, and some, such as the Paradise Lost Gold Folio, we print through PEECHO if we determine that there is a market for the publication. We will be soliciting manuscripts from writers to develop this program further.


 

 

Dr. Robert J. Wickenheiser
Noted scholar and collector discussing his Gold Elephant Folio of Paradise Lost with attendee Estelle Levy.
Rare Books
There will be a revolving display of beautiful books, many illustrated.
Members Reading Room
A small quiet period room on the first floor offer an ideal place to read a book.
LIVELY DISCUSSIONS
After a lecture or a discussion people can discuss the presentation.
WAH Coffee House
This elegant first floor Grand Reception Hall will be used for lectures and recitals. There are old master paintings, antiques, a small library and book shop.
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Cover Art for Cambridge University's Milton Companion 2014