External funding has become a fundamental aspect of many organizations, and cultural heritage institutions and programs are not immune. The ways in which funding is distributed represent for institutions and funding agencies implicit, and sometimes explicit, judgements of value, utility, or importance. Just as no research is done in a vacuum, cultural heritage institutions and programs do not exist for their own sake or the sake of their stakeholders. In cases where external funding is crucial to the continued existence of such institutions and programs, efforts at convincing funders of the importance of support are not a trivial undertaking. In the end, decisions that make or break programs are made by people who have little or no personal interest or stake. Over the past several decades, we have turned our attention to developing and maintaining avenues for digital access to cultural heritage.

In this project, we examine the extent to which public funding impacts the digital access to cultural heritage. Using publicly-available data provided by the the National Endowment for the Humanities on grants awarded from 1980 to 2014, we identify and analyze trends in funding for digital and computational projects in the humanities, with particular attention paid to heritage and archival projects. We consider levels of funding for projects which represent the country’s diverse ethnic, linguistic, cultural and racial heritage within the context of the overall funding scheme of the NEH.


Analysis scripts and data related to the project is available at Github. Follow us!


Martin, J. D., III, & Runyon, C. (2016). Digital humanities, digital hegemony: exploring funding practices and unequal access in the digital humanities. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society, 46(1), 20–26. doi: 10.1145/2908216.2908219 [download]


This project was presented in part at HASTAC 2015 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

Check us out on the HASTAC 2015 schedule and with the following hashtags on Twitter: #s43 #hastac2015.

The slide deck used during the presentation is available here.