MHC at 50

Our History

MHC at 50

“The humanities protect and give life to our most enduring values. The very DNA of civilization is encoded in the poet’s song, the painter’s brushstroke, and the vibrant dialogue about ideas.”
~Richard J. Franke

The Minnesota Humanities Center (MHC) is celebrating 50 years of sparking change! Founded in 1971 by the National Endowment for the Humanities, MHC was one of the first humanities councils in the country. Using story as a catalyst, we help interpret and bring understanding of the human experience and the world in which we live through projects and programs throughout the state of Minnesota.

Responsive to the needs of Minnesotan communities, MHC highlights the value of the humanities and their relevance to our world today. Through history, literature, film, language, civics and more, we connect, convene, and catalyze for change through a humanities-focused lens.

MHC History

Since our inception, MHC has used the power of the humanities to explore, interpret, and engage. During the 1970s and 80s, our programming involved a range of education initiatives exploring Minnesota’s people, sociology, and history. Televised and in-person programs strengthened how educators approach their content and classrooms and examined rural-metropolitan worldviews.

Into the 1990s, our public programming expanded to include traveling exhibits, international speakers, published books, and public events. These initiatives examined our nation and state’s diverse, difficult histories and potential future. In 1996, MHC established our current home and a full-service event center in a former wing of the Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul.

Moving into the 2000s, MHC expanded its commitment to accessibility with culturally responsive and linguistically relevant early literacy initiatives in White and Green Hmong, Somali, Dakota, and Ojibwe. Expanded partnerships with schools and districts across the region engaged audiences in new and deeper understandings of histories and cultures, food traditions, borders and boundaries, and identities. These programs and initiatives gained national recognition, garnering a regional Emmy award.

MHC Turns 50

MHC is one of the largest and most innovative state humanities councils in the nation. Responding to priorities of our communities today, we collaborate with individuals, creators, scholars, educators, and organizations in building a strong, inclusive, and connected society. MHC strengthens our world by promoting the humanities and supporting community decision-making in public life.

Central to MHC’s origin story is our priority as a responsive grant maker. Fifty years ago, our first grants addressed community-identified needs. Throughout the years we have continued to champion the humanities and humanities-based organizations. In the last year, MHC distributed 180 grants totaling more than $4.7 million across Minnesota. In response to the economic repercussions of COVID-19, MHC awarded an additional $538,500 through NEH CARES Act funding to support rapid relief efforts.

While our programs and resources will continue to evolve in the years ahead, our commitment to bringing people together, forge connections, and navigate critical conversations remains steadfast. We move forward committed to serving our communities through the humanities for the next 50 years.

We gratefully acknowledge the Capital Campaign committee whose support and guidance helped us to raise more than $2.5 million dollars!

Capital Campaign Committee Members

Kristin White, Co-Chair
Jacqueline Johnson, Co-Chair
Ta- Coumba Aiken

Mary Bednarowski
John Harrington
Patrick Henry

Lynne Leaf
Sylvia Strobel
Anton Treuer

Save the date for our 50th Anniversary event on Thursday, October 28, 2021!