American Council of Learned Societies
Occasional Paper No. 11

National Task Force
on Scholarship and
the Public Humanities


Making Connections: The Humanities, Culture and Community
by James Quay and James Veninga

Rapporteur’s Summary of the Wingspread Conference
by Michael M. Sokal

Recommendations of the Task Force


On October 5–7, 1989, representatives of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Federation of State Humanities Councils met at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin on the subject of  “Scholarship and the Public Humanities.”* Thirty representatives from learned societies, universities, museums, media, and state humanities councils were invited to identify ways of strengthening ties between the scholar and the public.

Two state council directors, James Quay of California and James Veninga of Texas, were each asked to give a keynote address providing “the big picture.” They chose to give a single speech in order to illustrate their title — making connections — and that speech became the basis for much discussion that followed. The theme was basic enough — that scholars devote much of their professional lives to making connections, between their own time and other times, between their own lives and other lives. American society, they argued, badly needed such connections now and will need them even more in the future. Scholars and scholarly institutions need to connect with the American public in new and far-reaching ways.

The humanities, all participants acknowledged, are valuable for their own sake and the nation must support and sustain scholarship because that enriches the common fund of knowledge. Likewise, we must “make the walls separating scholar and society more permeable,” in the words of one participant, so that knowledge becomes a public resource.

The ACLS and the Federation will implement recommendations coming from the Wingspread conference through a three-year program. A series of papers will be published and regional conferences will be held. A follow-up meeting to the Wingspread conference is also planned.

The goal of this joint effort is to strengthen connections between scholar and society, between colleges and universities and community organizations, and between the membership of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

*Support for the meeting and for print publication of ACLS Occasional Paper No. 11 was provided by the Johnson Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Joyce Foundation. [Back to text.]