Humanities Moments

Humanities Moments

We’ve all had “humanities moments” — when our lives were made richer, more poignant, and meaningful because of the insights the humanities provide.

Humanities moments occur daily in the lives of human beings. We access them through stories that reveal our complexities, our aspirations, and our tragic flaws. Whether we reflect on our personal experiences or our national history, it is the humanities moments that are most resonant and to which we continually return to mark who we are as individuals and as a culture.

The Humanities Moments Project was created by the National Humanities Center in an effort to gather, store, and share personal accounts about how the humanities illuminate our lives, help us better understand ourselves and each other, and provide tools for more fully understanding where we came from and where we are going.

We encourage you to

  • Explore the moments submitted by people from all walks of life about how the humanities have shaped their understanding of the world and of their fellow human beings, opened their eyes to new possibilities, and helped guide them through life.
  • Share your own stories about memorable encounters with history, literature, philosophy, the study of art and music, film and folklore, and other humanities topics.
  • Invite others to join the Humanities Moments project and add their voices to those gathered here.

Recently Added Moments

Visiting the Art Musuem

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

by Morna O’Neill, age 41, art history professor

My family always visited art museums when I was a child. I’m not quite sure why, as we never talked about the art, and I wondered, in secret, what exactly we were supposed to be doing there. When I was about eight years old, I read a book that answered that question:…

A few lines of poetry might be all we need...

East German citizens climb the Berlin Wall

by Nancy Gardner, educational consultant and NBCT teacher

I remember seeing the images on the television, in newspapers, and in magazines. It was such an epic event. The Berlin Wall was coming down, something I never imagined would happen. As a child in the 50s and 60s, I remember bomb drills during elementary school. Several of…

“For the Sake of a Cloud”

“Helen,” by Euripides

by Skye Shirley, age 28, Latin Teacher in Boston, MA

While taking Latin in high school, I became fascinated by the story of the Trojan War. I loved the interconnected perspectives of soldiers, royalty, deities, and ordinary people. The family trees and catalogues of soldiers seemed endless, and I was thrilled to discover that…

Origin Stories: Or, Making Sense of Surprises in the Family Tree

Family tree

by Molly A. Warsh, Assistant Professor of World History, University of Pittsburgh

My Humanities Moment happened when my husband and I received the results of the genetic testing kits we’d ordered. The stories that my husband’s DNA told matched up pretty closely with his family’s history, but mine delivered some surprises. In addition to indicating a…

A quiet desperation

Map of Walden Pond

In my late 20s, I knew that I wanted to make a vocational shift, but I struggled to find the courage to do so. One day, I came across the lines of Transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation,” he wrote in Walden

The Islamic Empire

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by My teachers

When I began AP World in my sophomore year of high school, I knew virtually nothing about the religion of Islam. So when we began our unit on the Islamic Empire, my experience was something akin to culture shock. I had never realized how similar Islam was to Christianity,…

Differences

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by Odera Tait

It's not often that we interact with people that have disabilities. When I was in elementary school my mother worked in homecare and took care of a young girl. She was the same age as me but she didn't have the ability to communicate, walk, or even feed herself on her own. I…

Human Thinking in Robots

Star Trek: The Next Generation

One of my humanities moments happened while I was watching old reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There is a character in that show named Data, an android who is constantly seeking his own humanity. At one point the crew of the Enterprise finds the…

Do Something

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by Ciara Tolbert

This skit was made because of multiple inspirations, but my contribution was the misuse of the word 'retard'. More days than not, I will be sitting on the bus hearing middle schoolers use the word retarded to describe something that is stupid or silly. I assume that they…

Inability to change.

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by Riley

When I was on a mission’s trip in Atlanta, Georgia, we went to visit a refugee housing area where many of the children there didn’t have a positive role model to look up to. Many of the parents of the children could hardly speak English, and the children relied on…

Carnegie Hall

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by Weaver Academy student

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York with my high school choir. We had been invited to perform a solo set of three songs under the conduction of our teacher. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I…

Dinner Talk

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by My Dad

My humanities moment happened a few days ago when I was talking to my father about college at a Mexican Restaurant. He talked to me about how lucky I was to be graduating high school and going to college in the fall. I didn't understand why it was such a big deal until he…

The Need for Food

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by Savannah

2 years ago my sister and I decided to spend our Saturday mornings helping distribute food at the Alamance Food Pantry . 30 families were given food every week and were only allowed to come once a month. One morning a woman showed up and had heard about the food pantry and…

Taking Inspiration

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by James Cannizzaro

Throughout my senior year of high school, I got to work alongside my classmates and my teacher, Mrs. Woods, as artists. This was our AP year, so our classroom acted as a sort of studio for all of us as we got to individually work on our concentrations. My concentration took…

Jim

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by Carolyn Bucknall

When I was a girl, my father hosted big work parties. I loved the parties because I loved Jim, the IT guy. He always smiled at me; he would take me up in his lap and bounce me until we both were giggling too much to continue. I loved Jim, and Jim, he loved me too.
Fast…

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