Three at Cornell receive NEH grants

Cornell faculty and staff are the recipients of three National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grants totaling more than $300,000, to fund research and preservation projects.

Sturt Manning, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Classical Archaeology in the College of Arts & Sciences and director of the Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory, is directing “Medieval Monuments and Wooden Cultural Heritage on Cyprus: Building History with Tree-Rings,” a collaborative project with co-directors Brita Lorentzen of the Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory and Nikolas Bakirtzis at The Cyprus Institute.

An NEH grant will support field research at historic sites on Cyprus to establish a chronology of late Byzantine and medieval churches and icons, based on tree-ring analysis (dendrochronology) and using minimally destructive techniques such as digital scanning.

Manning anticipates constructing long chronologies for the main species (such as pines and cedar) used in buildings and in making wooden objects over the last 700-plus years, by crossdating measurements of tree-ring sequences from these to fixed chronologies on Cyprus.

Nancy Green, the Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of European and American Art, Prints and Drawings, 1800-1945 at Cornell’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, is leading a sustainable preservation plan for works on paper in the museum’s collection.

A Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Grant from the NEH will support efforts to identify solutions to excessive light exposure, insufficient storage space and inadequate climate control within the print storage and study room of the museum.

The project’s interdisciplinary planning team will include outside consultants with expertise in paper conservation, preservation environments and the building’s unique architecture, designed by I.M. Pei.

Nicole Milano, head of Medical Center Archives at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Samuel J. Wood Library in New York City, received a Preservation Assistance Grant from the NEH to purchase preservation supplies to help rehouse historic medical records spanning three centuries.

The project is titled “Preserving the History of America’s Second Oldest Hospital.” New York Hospital (now NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital) was chartered in 1771 by King George III of England. The collections to be preserved include records related to Aaron Burr, who served as a member of the hospital Board of Governors; Alexander Hamilton, who supported the Lying-In Hospital of the City of New York; and Dr. David Hosack, the personal physician of both Hamilton and Burr – as well as early records of illnesses, epidemics and medical treatments.

The awards, among $29 million in NEH funding supporting 215 humanities projects nationwide, were announced by the National Humanities Alliance (NHA).

This cycle of NEH grant funding will help “organizations around the country preserve our cultural heritage, provide professional development opportunities for K-12 educators, make advances in providing digital access to humanities resources, and support the publication of nonfiction books for the public,” said NHA Executive Director Stephen Kidd. Some of the projects receiving support include the preservation of original Technicolor negatives for “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone with the Wind”; travel and fees for teachers attending regional and national conferences; and the production of a documentary on Alaska. 

This story originally appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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