The National Endowment for the Humanities turns 50 this year. 45 years ago, Wyoming was one of the first states with its own humanities council. Shortly after creating the national organization, Congress called on the NEH to expand at the state level.
Shannon Smith is the executive director of the Wyoming Humanities Council. She says Wyoming played an important role in helping the NEH find the best way to serve communities around the nation. “The NEH conducted experiments in six states,” says Smith. “Two states, Oregon and Wyoming, set up an independent committee, and after the first year, it was an overwhelming success. Wyoming played a major part in this with the kind of programs that they conducted.”
In the NEH’s 50 years, the organization has provided thousands of public programs nationwide. Here in Wyoming, Smith says one of the most rewarding parts of working with the NEH is seeing how their work impacts small communities around the state.
“For example," says Smith, “the Homesteader Museum in Torrington hosts this fabulous exhibit from the Smithsonian, and they bring their entire community and people from their region to come and visit this museum and learn about the history of that region and how it fits into the history of the United States.”
The Wyoming Humanities Council also hopes to serve communities by helping people talk about complicated issues facing the state. One such issue is water management in the West, which the organization plans to tackle in their 2016 programs.