Activate History Microgrants

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Individuals, Organizations, and Public Institutions


Apr 15, 2024


Sep 3, 2024

Microgrants support individuals and small organizations that invite the public to experience collections of local and regional history. From archives and texts to stories and photography, we support stewards of history so that they can teach and enlighten their communities and impart the value of archives. This program is designed to be accessible with a quick turnaround; grants are offered twice a year, and applications reopen immediately after the close of each cycle.

Award Timeline

The entire grant review process typically takes four weeks (about one month) from the deadline until applicants are notified about funding. An event or activity must happen within six months of the application deadline. Applicants may submit one grant application per cycle.

  1. Proposals are reviewed. Applicants may be invited to share more details about their planned project to support the review process. (Four weeks)
  2. Successful applicants are notified. (One week) 
  3. Applicants review and sign grant agreements. Once the signed agreement is received, grant funds are issued in two to three weeks. 
  4. Within 30 days of the conclusion of a project or grant period, grantees must complete a final grant report.
Eligibility and Guidelines


  • Any individual, nonprofit organization, or public institution (e.g., school, government institution, library, museum, or church) can apply.
  • The applicant, the history you are engaging with, or the audience engaged should be focused in Illinois. 
  • Priority is given to organizations with annual budgets of less than $400,000.

Questions about your eligibility? View our Frequently Asked Questions or contact us.



  1. Grants awards are $750.
  2. Optional Accessibility Fund: An additional stipend of up to $150 for services such as American Sign Language interpretation or captioning to help make events more accessible to everyone.
  3. Optional Media Fund: An additional stipend of up to $100 for services such as documentation, photography, videography, etc.


  1. The event or activity must happen within six months of the application deadline.
  2. Programs can be held virtually, in person, or in a hybrid format.
  3. Funds should support interpretation, dialogue, and attracting attention to local collections, texts, and stories of regional significance.
  4. Funds can be used for research and digitization provided they are part of an engagement strategy.


  1. Help us to promote your event by sharing details and materials.
  2. Document your funded activity with photography and written reflection.
  3. Complete a final grant report form about their funded activity and its outcome.
Evaluation and Documentation

Evaluation and documentation are important to us, and we are eager to see how grant applicants define success and plan to measure progress toward it. We ask grant applicants to describe in precise terms the project's desired outcome, and how they will know if it was successful. Within 30 days of the conclusion of a project or grant period, grantees must complete a final grant report.

We ask all Grant recipients to document their initiatives or events by taking photos, recording audio or video, and sharing their experience with us. We want to share with others the great work that grantees are doing and frequently feature stories of grantee partners in our news and on social media @ILHumanities.

Additional Funding

  1. Optional Accessibility Fund: An additional stipend of up to $150 for services such as American Sign Language interpretation or captioning to help make events more accessible to everyone.
  2. Optional Media Fund: An additional stipend of up to $100 for services such as documentation, photography, videography, etc.
How to Apply

Apply online using our grant application portal, Foundant.


  1. Applicants should submit one grant application per cycle.
  2. Recurring Deadlines*: 5:00 p.m. CST on March 1st and September 1st

*When the grant deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline will move to the next business day. 

Grantee Resources
  1. Complete your final report via our grantee portal.
  2. Official IH Logo (August 2021 version "Illinois Humanities" is bolded)
  3. Grant Acknowledgement Language: This program was made possible in part by a grant from Illinois Humanities.
  4. Resources for grantee partners and grant seekers.

Below are brief descriptions of funded projects.

  1. Black and Pink Chicago developed the first interactive digital archive and community-based research project on civil commitment in Illinois by compiling hundreds of pages of written testimonials, filed grievances, drawings of prison cells, self-published pamphlets, and more. The archive included the surveys of 200 people detained at Rushville Treatment and Detention Center that were conducted to better understand civil commitment and the experiences of those committed. “The practice of civil commitment keeps people incarcerated indefinitely after they’ve served their sentences under the guise of treatment,” says Rebecca Valeriano-Flores, a researcher and archivist with the organization. With these grant funds, for more than 30 attendees, the group did a presentation on civil commitment, shared access to the digital archive itself, and facilitated a Q&A session with a member currently incarcerated at Rushville.
  2. The Viking Ship, located in Good Templar Park in Geneva, Ill., is a 78-foot historical and cultural mega-artifact, the largest surviving display from the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. The exposition put Chicago on the international map, says David Nordin, vice president, Friends of the Viking Ship. “This is the first Viking-style ship built since the ancient Viking age, and its successful non-stop voyage across the North Atlantic riveted the world’s attention." The group used funds to host meetings of public school, private school, and homeschool teachers on how to interpret the ship to meet their current curriculum needs.
  3. Rose Blouin is a veteran photographer with a particular interest in documenting the African American experience in community, arts, and culture. This project was a presentation and discussion of photographs that document activities held in Chicago’s Washington Park during the summer of 1987. These photos were juxtaposed with other work that Blouin created during trips to South Africa and Havana, Cuba. The intended audience was senior members of Mather, a non-denominational senior center in Chatham, as well as community residents of all ages.
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Friends of the Viking Ship used an Activate History Microgrant to host engagements with the historical artifact in Geneva.

I Do by Jevoid Simmons Genesea Public Library Underground Railroad Program

The Geneseo Public Library used its grant to produce an event with author and artist Jevoid Simmons about the Underground Railroad in Geneseo. (Pictured: "I Do" by Jevoid Simmons) 

Contact Us

Mark Hallett
Director of Grants Programs

Joanne Hsu
Grants Programs Manager

Grantee Partner Spotlight

Switchboard Rehearsal Image 1
Sivan Spector and Annie Share during rehearsal for SWITCHBOARD

Sivan Spector & Annie Share

Grantee Partner Spotlight: The Neo-Futurists

Sivan Spector and Annie Share received an Illinois Humanities grant to explore the missed connections of the S.S. Eastland disaster through a Neo-Futurist puppetry show that hopes to heal our missed connections and bring to light this tragedy. 

Learn More

Frequently Asked Questions

What is your definition of the humanities?

The humanities are the examination of what it means to be human through the interpretation and discussion of all forms of thought, interest, and expression.

We value traditional humanities disciplines, such as art history, literature, history, and philosophy. However, our emphasis on the public humanities means that we look at the humanities as more than an academic discipline. For us, the public humanities are a mode of inquiry and conversation that aims to engage, support, or challenge the ideals, beliefs, tensions, and prejudices of the communities in which we live. We believe that important thought can happen outside of the academy–in neighborhood institutions, schools, churches, and at kitchen tables across the country.

We are especially interested in instances of the public humanities that promote civic engagement–in raising critical issues facing everyday people and conducted with the hope of increasing their thirst for staying engaged. Rather than being defined by rigid disciplinary boundaries, it is the humanistic lens, which emphasizes curiosity, questioning, and dialogue, that matters.

Does your organization have a working definition of the public humanities? Share it with us–we’re eager to explore how others are addressing this complex question.

What activities and expenses does Illinois Humanities not fund?

Illinois Humanities supports public humanities programs, initiatives, and organizations. We do not fund:

  • Activities that promote a specific political position or ideology
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Businesses, for-profits
  • Capital projects (i.e., renovation or purchase of buildings or land)
  • Endowment contributions
  • Foreign travel
  • Lobbying
  • Major equipment purchases (though equipment to assist a specific program is admissible)
  • Out-of-state programs that have no specific relevance or thematic connection people in Illinois (though technically a grant recipient or fiscal agent can be located elsewhere in the U.S.)
  • Programming that falls outside of the humanities
  • Social services (though a social services agency may apply for funding of a humanities project)
Can I have more than one active grant with Illinois Humanities at a time?

In general, grantees may have one open Vision, Action, or General Operating grant at a given time.  Before applying for a new grant, current grantees should be sure to conclude their open grant by submitting a final report.

A grantee may have an open Vision, Action, or General Operating grant and still receive an Activate History microgrant, Multiplier, Envisioning Justice, or Foreground Rural Initiative grant.

Note: If your organization acts as a fiscal agent for another, you may have an open grant and still receive funding for any grant offered by Illinois Humanities.

Who can apply?

Nonprofit organizations can apply for Illinois Humanities grants. This includes 501(c)3 organizations and nonprofits under state law, as well as libraries, schools, faith-based organizations, and universities. We do not accept grant applications from individuals (unless otherwise indicated) or for-profit companies. If you are unsure about whether you can apply, reach out to us.

Why does Illinois Humanities have a grant-making program?

Illinois Humanities has been making grants since its inception in 1973 with over 3,000 awards given, totaling over $22 million. We are proud to have helped support dozens of documentary films, conferences, exhibits, training programs, oral history projects, and scores of other activities. We are firm believers in the many organizations and individuals throughout the state of Illinois that value the humanities, culture, and dialogue as community-building activities, and wish to help them fulfill their missions, carry out high-quality programming, and grow their organizations. We are indebted to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly for the support that allows this grantmaking program to exist.