During the 1970s, the NEH provided University of Illinois researchers with 64 grants, funding summer institutes, individual research, public humanities iniatives, and the creation of new research centers on campus. Below we provide a selection of those awards. 



Selected Grants:

Manuscript page from "A la recherche du temps perdu"

"A Critical Edition of Proust's Correspondence" (1971 and 5 subsequent grants)

Project Director: Philip Kolb*, French and University Library

Beginning in 1971, Philip Kolb received a series of NEH grants to support his monumental edition of Marcel Proust's correspondence. He received subsequent grants in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1989, and 1990 to support the massive undertaking of collecting, collating, and editing Proust's letters. The resulting scholarly edition is a landmark in Proust scholarship, as Illinois professor and fellow NEH researcher François Proulx explains in the video below.

For more information about the continuation of Kolb's work visit the Kolb-Proust Archive for Research's website here.

Click here for a recent digital humanities project put together by Professor François Proulx using letters from the Kolb-Proust Archive. 

An Interview with Kolb-Proust Librarian Caroline Szylowicz



Pierson book cover

 "The Life of Japanese Journalist Tokutomi Soho (18631957)" (19731974)

Principal Investigator: John D. Pierson (Retired)

Abstract: To complete, for publication, an intellectual biography of Tokutomi Soho (18631957), an influential journalist in modern Japan. An examination of his life, writings and thought can provide valuable insights into how the Japanese responded to their modernizing experience.

One of the outcomes of this grant was the monograph Tokutomi Soho, 18631957: A Journalist for Modern Japan (Princeton University Press, 1980), recently reissued as part of Princeton UP's Legacy Library in 2014.



"History of American Thought and Culture" (1973, 1976)

Project Director: Winton Solberg, Professor Emeritus of History

A series of summer seminars that, to quote the abstract, "examine the growth of American thought and culture by study of selected topics which have been influential in shaping intellectual and cultural development in America from the beginning to the present. The topics include: American Puritanism, the American Enlightenment, the romantic impulse in American, the Americalization of Christianity, the Southern intellectual tradition. The interaction between ideas and material factors in forming American thought and culture will receive attention, with a focus on the interplay between religious, scientific, political, social, literary, and aesthetic developments."



"East Asian Humanities Program at the University of Illinois" (19751978)

Project Director: Robert Crawford*, Professor of History and Asian Studies

To establish a year long elementary East Asian problem-oriented humanities course which will satisfy college distribution requirements; to develop a set of readings selected especially for this course; and to offer a senior seminar for majors and other students with a serious interest in East Asia. The course will enable both faculty and students to better deal with issues central to the humanities, and will illustrate the roots of East Asia culture or differences in common human and social concerns and experiences.



"Literature and Society in Russia" (1977/1978/1985)

Project Director: Maurice Friedberg*, Professor Emeritus of Slavic Languages and Literatures

"The Summer Research Laboratory on Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia came into existence in 1973 as a way to make the University Library’s superlative collections in this field accessible to scholars beyond the faculty and graduate student body at Illinois.  The expansion of higher education in the years since the 1957 Sputnik launch had produced new cohorts of active scholars in the field of Russian and East European studies, but many of these held teaching positions in small colleges and universities that lacked library resources for their research.   The Summer Lab provided rooms in a university dormitory, access to an unparalleled library collection, and consultations with the Slavic Library’s expert staff.  As the number of summer visitors grew from an initial 44 to 200 by the early 1980s, the Russian and East European Center’s leaders decided to organize seminars and workshops that could provide these visiting scholars with new ideas and materials for their teaching.  Among these were a series of NEH workshops from 1985 through the early 1990s that brought in three or four leading specialists each summer to offer two-week workshops in their specialties. The workshops, on topics such as contemporary Soviet theater or the Muslims of Central Asia, met for a couple of hours each day, organized around a set of common readings done in advance.  The NEH workshops permitted these scholars to return to their home institutions not only with notes for their research projects but a portfolio of ideas, readings, and insights that they could apply to their teaching."

Diane Koenker 

An Interview with NEH Grant-Recipient Diane Koenker
Subsequent related grants:

"Workshops on Russian and Soviet Culture" (1984); PI: Ralph Fisher*, Professor Emeritus of History

"Workshops on Eastern European and Russian Culture" (1987); PI: Mariana Tax Choldin, Mortenson Distinguished Professor and Director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs (Retired)

"Workshops on the Literature of Eastern Europe and the Soviet World" (1990; PI: Diane Koenker, Professor of History and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies



University Library Challenge Grant Funds (1977Present)

Use of NEH Challenge Grant Funds

Over the years, the University Library’s use of the NEH Challenge Grant funding shifted focus from largely being devoted to acquisitions to being a fund that seeks to more comprehensively address the three primary goals outlined in the original grant application – acquisitions, preservation, and discovery. In pursuit of that aim, the resources generated from the endowment largely benefitted units in Preservation Services and the units of the Special Collections Division. 

In addition to supporting some acquisitions, projects that have been supported by the NEH Challenge Grant funds in recent years include: 

  • providing hourly processing support for the Gwendolyn Brooks Papers; 
  • conducting a preservation assessment of the University Archives photograph collections that provided guidance for further reformatting and preservation work; 
  • supporting the work necessary to move of existing finding aids for the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections from existing in print only to being available online; 
  • supporting hourly processing support that reduced or eliminated backlogged manuscript processing in the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections; 
  • eliminating backlogs of historical children’s books;
  • conducting a preservation assessment of the Tykociner collection in the University Archives; 
  • completing conservation project work 
  • completing a project to catalog, inventory, and rehouse 122,000 maps from our Map Library;
  • piloting processes to process, access, and ingest born-digital and digitized content; and
  • supporting the University Library’s development and installation of a new HVAC and fire suppression system for the Archives Service Center’s vault storage. 


Prepared by: Thomas Teper, Associate University Librarian for Collections and Technical Services and Associate Dean of Libraries



Labor in Illinois book cover

"Labor in Illinois, 19451980" (19801984)

Principal Investigator: Milton Derber, Professor Emeritus of Labor and Industrial Relations

A "State and Local and Regional Studies" grant that supported research for the monograph of the same name, published by the University of Illinois Press in 1989.