This is the million-dollar question, and the answer is multifaceted. Generally, humanities content cultivates new understandings of culture and the human experience. Projects with humanities content do this through exploration of shared and diverse perspectives rooted both in academic and community-driven ideas. A good question to ask when trying to decide if your project has humanities content is “What new conversation will evolve from this project, and why is it important to my community/audience?”
- The NEH provides the following definition:
The term “humanities” includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism, and theory of the arts; those aspects of the social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.
- Humanities Montana offers this description:
The humanities are the examination of what it means to be human through the interpretation and discussion of all forms of thought, interest, and expression. While we value traditional humanities disciplines, such as art history, literature, history, and philosophy, our emphasis is on the public humanities, which means that we look at the humanities as more than an academic discipline.
For us, the public humanities are a mode of inquiry and conversation that aims to engage, support, or challenge the ideals, beliefs, tensions, and prejudices of the communities in which we live. We believe that important thought can happen outside of the academy — in neighborhood institutions, schools, and churches, and at kitchen tables across the country. We are especially interested in instances of the public humanities that promote civic engagement — in raising critical issues facing everyday people and conducted with the hope of increasing participants’ thirst for staying engaged. Rather than being defined by rigid disciplinary boundaries, it is the humanistic lens, which emphasizes curiosity, questioning, and dialogue, that matters.