Thomas A. Edison Papers

The new administration has proposed to eliminate NEH and NHPRC, two of our major grant sponsors. Below is an open letter to NEH from Dr. Paul Israel. For more information on how you can help, visit

From the Director of The Edison Papers
To the President, Members of Congress, and Representatives

As a constituent, I am writing to urge you to support robust funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and oppose any proposal that would eliminate NEH.

I am concerned by recent reports that the Trump Administration is considering a request to eliminate NEH, among other agencies, in its inaugural Presidential Budget Request. I urge you to oppose any proposals to eliminate NEH and support at least level funding for the agency.

NEH's programs teach essential skills and habits including reading, writing, critical thinking, and effective communication that are crucial for ensuring that each individual has the opportunity to learn and become a productive member of society. Employers increasingly seek employees who can combine the cultural knowledge and analytical ability fostered by these programs with technical knowledge and scientific research fostered by STEM education to create innovation and economic growth.

In the past two years, NEH has added the Standing Together initiative to its already critical work. The initiative funds reading groups for veterans that help them process their experiences through discussions of literature on war and homecoming; writing programs for veterans suffering from PTSD; intensive college-preparation programs; and training for Veterans Affairs staff to help them understand the experiences of veterans.

In addition to this initiative, NEH continues to support the work of humanities councils, museums, libraries, and universities to preserve and explore local history and traditions; promote understanding among diverse communities; and foster a sense of our common ideals, enduring civic values, and shared cultural heritage.

My own work has been greatly assisted by NEH funding. In 1998, I published my award-winning biography of Thomas Edison (Edison: A Life of Invention). Funding from NEH enabled me to take a year's leave of absence and to hire a research assistant to help me conduct research in the Edison archives, which contain an estimated 5 million pages of material. The Thomas A. Edison Papers project at Rutgers University, of which I serve as director and general editor, would be unable to accomplish its goals of making this large collection of Edison's papers more accessible through its digital image and book editions without funding from the Scholarly Editing grants offered by NEH. Over the years I also have been involved in many teachers institutes funded by NEH. These institutes enable middle and high school teachers to incorporate documents from the Edison Papers as well as a more sophisticated understanding of the history of technological innovation and business into their classrooms.

Grants from NEH and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, an even smaller federal agency, are the only dedicated sources that support the vital work of documentary editors whose projects are making key documents in the history of the United States accessible in authoritative editions that help us to better understand the history of these United States.

While I appreciate the difficult budgetary decisions ahead, I strongly believe that funding NEH (and NHPRC) must be a high priority.

Thank you for your consideration.

Since 1978, the Thomas A. Edison Papers Project has been the
world's premier center
for Edison scholarship, making Edison's world
accessible both online and in print of thousands of documents relating to the
world's foremost inventor.
We are dedicated to continuing this important work,
but in these challenging times,
we need your help.

Donate Online Now!

All donors will receive an Edison Notebook pictured above, and also be recognized in our online newsletter and on the acknowledgment page of our forthcoming volume of the Edison Papers.

Donors of $1,000 or more will receive a hardcover copy of Volume 8 signed by the editors.

Donors of $10,000 or more will be invited to a private tour of Edison's historic laboratory in West Orange, N.J.

Last Updated: 11/02/2016 ,

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