Bruce Cole to Leave the NEH in 2009

AHA Staff, December 2008

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced that Bruce Cole will leave the endowment in January 2009, on the expiration of his second term in office, to join the American Revolution Center in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, as its president and CEO.

During his long tenure, which started in 2001, the NEH launched many humanities programs, including “We the People” and “Picturing America.” Under Cole’s leadership, the NEH led the application of digital technology to the humanities through its Office of Digital Humanities. The office established innovative grant programs and formed groundbreaking partnerships with the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. Cole has also worked to broaden the international reach of NEH.
In 2002, Cole established “We the People,” a program to improve the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. Notable We the People projects include Landmarks of American History and Culture workshops for school and community college teachers offered at important American historic sites, as well as the We the People Bookshelf, which annually distributes classic books that explore enduring American themes to thousands of libraries.

Another major initiative of Cole has been the “Picturing America” program. Designed to help students understand America’s national story through art, Picturing America brings great American art into classrooms and libraries nationwide, enabling people of all ages to gain a deeper appreciation of our country’s history and character. Through Picturing America, schools and public libraries receive 40 large, high-quality reproductions of American art, along with resources to help educators use the images to teach American history, literature, civics, and other subjects.

During the first Picturing America application period in 2008, nearly one-fifth of all U.S. schools and public libraries applied for the program. Working with the American Library Association, the NEH made more than 36,000 Picturing America awards to schools, public libraries and Head Start Centers nationwide, and expects to award thousands more by the end of the year. As part of the Picturing America initiative, the NEH formed partnerships with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, and the National Park Service.

Before he came to the NEH, Cole was the distinguished professor of art history and professor of comparative literature at Indiana University in Bloomington. A noted historian of Renaissance art, Cole has written more than a dozen books, including The Renaissance Artist at Work; The Relation of Art to Life and Society; Titian and Venetian Art, 1450-1590; and The Informed Eye: Understanding Masterpieces of Western Art.

“For the past seven years, I had the honor of working with the talented staff at NEH, our National Council on the Humanities, and the state humanities councils to preserve and promote the best of the humanities,” said Cole. “Programs such as We the People and Picturing America bring humanities education to the forefront and increase understanding of our unique history among our citizens. I depart as a grateful American, with profound appreciation for NEH’s commitment to the critical importance of the humanities. I look forward to continuing to promote the understanding of American history in my new endeavor.”

At the helm of the American Revolution Center, Cole will be taking on several new challenges, including the implementation of the center’s plans to build a museum complex on 78 acres adjacent to the Valley Forge National Historic Site, which is managed by the National Park Service.