NEH awards $2 million to pubmedia projects

By Sean Meehan

Teddy Roosevelt sits in a canoe during his expedition into an unmapped part of the Amazon. WGBH's documentary series American Experience received one of seven grants given to public media by the National Endowment for the Humanities to produce "Into the Amazon," a documentary about the expedition.

Teddy Roosevelt sits in a canoe during his expedition into an unmapped part of the Amazon. WGBH’s documentary series American Experience received an NEH grant supporting “Into the Amazon,” a documentary about the expedition. (Photo: American Museum of Natural History Library)

Seven public media projects got a boost July 21 with the announcement of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which included almost $2 million for pubcasters.

The largest grants, each for $600,000, will support documentaries from WGBH in Boston and Firelight Media in New York. WGBH will use the grant for a two-hour American Experience episode, “Into the Amazon: The Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition.” The documentary, produced by American Experience Executive Producer Mark Samels, covers a 1913 expedition to an unmapped territory of the Amazon led by Theodore Roosevelt and Brazilian colonel Candido Rondon.

Firelight Media, whose documentaries frequently air on PBS, will use the grant to fund Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Firelight founder and filmmaker Stanley Nelson is leading the project to produce the two-hour documentary.

A third grant in the media project production category went to Tulane University in New Orleans to help produce American Routes, the weekly music show distributed by Public Radio Exchange. The grant for $269,675 will fund production of 20 hours of radio programming.

PRX is also receiving a $325,000 grant of its own in the digital humanities implementation category, which supports innovative digital projects in the start-up phase. PRX will use the grant to further develop its Pop Up Archive, an online platform for culturally significant audio collections.

Arlington, Va.based pubTV station WETA received two grants. The station will use a $75,000 grant to develop a documentary film series about Asian Americans and a $60,000 grant to develop “Rosalynn Carter: Political Partner,” a one-hour TV documentary about the former first lady. The documentary is part of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions’ Modern First Ladies series.

And another $60,000 grant will go to the WFMT Radio Network in Chicago to help produce “Vox Humana: The Studs Terkel Radio Archive,” an interactive web project seeking to archive and make public the nearly 5,000 oral histories conducted by Studs Terkel as part of his long-running radio show.

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