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Three Davidson Projects Garner Sought After NEH Grants

Peter Ahrensdorf
Peter Ahrensdorf

Three Davidson College projects were among 295 humanities projects nationwide to receive National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grants announced last month.

Peter Ahrensdorf, James Sprunt Professor of Political Science and Humanities, won a grant of $50,400 for his project, "Homer and the History of Political Philosophy: Encounters with Plato, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and the Bible," a book-length study of Homer and the history of political philosophy.

"This book seeks to demonstrate Homer's crucial importance as a philosophic thinker by explaining the critical role he plays in the thought of Plato, the founder of classical political philosophy; Machiavelli, the founder of modern political philosophy; and Nietzsche, the principal philosophic source of postmodernism," Ahrensdorf said. "This book also will shed important light on the relation between rationalism and religion in the history of political philosophy by comparing and contrasting Homer and the Bible with respect to their presentations of the divine and their understanding of human excellence.

"Western civilization is often defined as the offshoot of classical Greece, on the one hand, and the Bible, on the other," Ahrensdorf noted. "This book's critical juxtaposition of Homer and the Bible will clarify and deepen our understanding of the perplexing, hybrid character of the West."

The Davidson College Archives of E.H. Little Library won two grants. The first, for $11,825 is for a community history project involving both town and gown. The second, for $6,000, will support preservation planning and digitization in the College Archives.

The community history grant is one of the more than $434,000 worth of "Common Heritage" community history project grants the NEH awarded nationwide. The project is titled, "History Homecoming Day: Digitizing the Gaps in the Diverse History of a Small College Town."

"One of the things I learned in writing a town history is how much more history is out there," said College Archivist Jan Blodgett, co-author of One Town, Many Voices and the NEH grant project director.

Caitlin Christian-Lamb
Caitlin Christian-Lamb

"This grant will help us fill in some important gaps and raise the level of awareness of the contributions of African-Americans in the Town of Davidson and in North Mecklenburg County. We are working with the theme ‘Remembering our ancestors, remembering our family stories.' This grant allows us to create collaborations between neighbors, the college and town, and local civic groups to capture the vibrant history and contributions of African-Americans in Davidson and surrounding communities."

The second library grant is "Davidson College Archives and Special Collections Comprehensive Preservation Plans."

"Last year, I realized that the College Archives has a trove of 16 and 32 mm films, mainly from the 1940s through the '60s, and that none of the staff had ever watched–we don't have the proper projector," said Associate Archivist Caitlin Christian-Lamb, the project manager.

"I realized that we need to digitize these films so we could use the material and preserve it for future generations. The archives doesn't have formal preservation plans for any of our analog or born-digital material, and as we expand our collections of student work (particularly in collaboration with the Digital Studies program and Davidson Domains), being able to care for these complex digital objects and give access to researchers is vital."

The NEH Preservation Assistance Grant for Smaller Institutions will allow the library to engage a consultant to help draft plans to preserve its diverse collections and continue to share them with the college community and beyond for years to come.