Library of America
World War I and America

World War I and America:
A Centennial Exploration

A Library of America Project funded by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Offering $1200 and $1800 grants to libraries, museums, and nonprofit cultural institutions to host public programs

Presented in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the National WWI Museum and Memorial, Wounded Warriors Project, and the United States World War One Centennial Commission

Round I:
Application deadline: July 15, 2016
August 15, 2016
Round II:
Application deadline: January 13, 2017
February 13, 2017
Grant term:
October 2016 - March 2018
Application (PDF)

Project Overview

Organized to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the nation’s entry into the war in 1917, World War I and America is a major NEH-supported initiative supporting public programs in libraries, museums, and nonprofit cultural institutions in all fifty states, a traveling exhibition, a multimedia website, and the publication of an unprecedented anthology of writings by Americans who experienced World War I. Its principal objective is to bring veterans and their families together with the general public to explore the American experience of war and its role in shaping the contemporary world by reading, discussing, and sharing insights into the writings of Americans who experienced it firsthand.

World War I and America will fund thematic programming in 120 institutions located in all fifty states beginning in January 2017 and extending throughout the centennial year to March 2018. Fifty of the participating sites will also host a companion traveling exhibition of documents, images, and interpretive texts prepared by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Each site selected by competitive application to participate in the initiative will be awarded a grant: eighty sites will receive stipends of $1,200 to mount a minimum of two free public programs and forty sites will receive stipends of $1,800 to support a minimum of three free public programs. Applications are open to public, academic, and community college libraries; museums and historical societies; and nonprofit community organizations. There will be two application cycles, and institutions not selected in the first round are encouraged to reapply.

Humanities Themes and Guiding Questions

Many today do not appreciate the deep impact World War I had on the Americans who lived through it, or the profound ways in which it continues to resonate. The war ushered in a sea change in American culture, challenging traditional ideals and notions of social deference, introducing new and distinctly modern ways of understanding and talking about war, heroism, and sacrifice, exposing and stressing social fault lines relating to race, ethnicity, and gender, and redefining the nation’s role on the world stage.

World War I and America creates a structured environment to explore these and other issues by focusing on the words of the men and women who experienced World War I firsthand. It offers readings from the rich and diverse variety of World War I writing by Americans—soldiers, airmen, nurses, journalists, diplomats, statesmen, political activists, relief workers, poets, songwriters—to reveal what they believed they were fighting for, how they understood America’s changing position in the world, why they supported or opposed intervention, how they experienced military service and battle, how the war affected their ideas of patriotism and heroism and their views on race, ethnicity, and gender roles, how men and women transformed by war in both body and mind managed the return home, literally, emotionally, and psychologically. Restoring a human, personal dimension to increasingly distant historical events, these texts allow readers—with and without their own direct experience of later conflicts—to explore differences and similarities between the past and the present and come to a deeper understanding of historical events and their lasting impact.

The project’s Guiding Questions highlight the relevance of the issues involved:

  • Should Americans try to “make the world safe for democracy?”
  • Are American claims to moral leadership abroad vitiated by racial injustice at home?
  • What happens when the loyalty of an American minority comes under suspicion during wartime?
  • How should a democratic society rally popular support for war, and how should it deal with dissent at home while it is fighting overseas?
  • How does combat forever change the trajectory of individual lives?
  • What does the nation owe to those who fight on its behalf?

Model Programs

The involvement of veterans and their families is central to World War I and America. Applicants are strongly encouraged to identify a Veteran Liaison who can assist with the planning and production of programs. For information on how to find a Veteran Liaison, see Tips for Engaging the Veteran Community in Your Area.

All participating institutions must present a minimum of two programs under the grant, at least one of which must be a discussion/reading group moderated by a scholar, veteran, and/or veteran-writer designed to draw out and explore the project’s Humanities Themes (above). The program will focus on short readings drawn from the World War I and America Reader, which will be made available at this website as a free downloadable PDF. Because audience members cannot be expected to have read the texts in advance, provision should be made for presentation of the texts as part of the program, either as live readings or by viewing of video-recordings of readings available at the project website. For information on how to find a Scholar Moderator, see Tips for Finding a Scholar Moderator.

Other programs under the grant might include:

  • A panel discussion, featuring a World War I scholar, veterans, veteran-writers, veteran-family members.
  • A lecture featuring a World War I scholar.
  • A writing workshop, with project texts as points of departure.
  • A film-to-book screening/discussion.
  • A book group.
  • An exhibition of World War I-related documents and artifacts from your institution’s holdings, or from members of your community.
  • Readings/performances of project texts by actors, veteran or otherwise.

Project Components

Institutions selected to participate in World War I and America will receive:

  • A grant to support free public programming, either $1,800 for a minimum of three programs or $1,200 for two. Grants may be used for: stipends for veteran liaison and/or scholar; travel expenses; honoraria; actors/performers fees; publicity and advertising; refreshments; or other costs associated with programming.
  • A copy of World War I and America: Told by the Americans Who Lived It, a hardcover anthology edited by A. Scott Berg to be published by Library of America in March 2017.
  • The World War I and America Reader (PDF), available for free download at the project website (below).
  • project site featuring multimedia resources for public programming and individual discovery, including readings and video commentary by scholars and veteran-writers, a free downloadable reader of historical texts, an interactive timeline of events, and an exhibition of documents and images from World War I, and links to other resources.
  • An online site support notebook, with tools for planning and publicizing programs, including downloadable press releases.
  • An orientation webinar for site coordinators and scholars/facilitators covering interpretive materials, public relations, and logistics.
  • A best-practices webinar designed to assist sites in addressing special issues involved in working with veterans.
  • Programming support throughout the grant period.

In addition, fifty of the participating sites will be selected to receive:

  • A traveling panel exhibition for a three-week loan period (shipping is supported by the grant).
  • Insurance coverage for reasonable damage to the exhibition.


Institutions selected to participate in World War I and America are expected to:

  • Develop and produce a minimum of two public programs addressing the project’s Guiding Questions, at least one of which must be a discussion/reading group moderated by a scholar, veteran, or veteran-writer.
  • Offer these programs free of charge and open to the public in a wheelchair-accessible venue.
  • Actively engage with veterans and their families, both as participants in programming and as audience members. Participating institutions are strongly encouraged to identify a Veteran Liaison who can assist with this outreach.
  • Appoint one staff member as the project coordinator. The coordinator is required to participate in an orientation webinar that includes a workshop in best practices for veterans programming.
  • Provide required summary report, including copies of photos or recordings of programming, at specified deadlines.

Selection Criteria

Library of America and the Gilder Lehrman Institute will select institutions to participate in World War I and America based on the following criteria:

  1. Excellence, creativity, and specificity of plans for public programming, especially of plans to alert, invite, and involve veterans and their family members.
  2. Location: the grant seeks to serve all regions of the country, with a special preference for traditionally underserved communities.
  3. Size and demographics: the Selection Committee seeks a mix of different community sizes and demographics.
  4. Evidence of the site’s ability to reach target audiences and market programs effectively. Preference will be given to applicants who have a proven track record of partnering with other institutions on public programming.
  5. Site director’s commitment to dedicating the necessary time and resources to develop and implement the proposed programming.
Application (PDF)

Application Questionnaire

Please respond to the following questions in no more than two pages total, making sure to number your responses to each question.

  1. Why would your institution like to participate in World War I and America? Please describe the programming you plan to undertake, indicating with as much specificity as possible who will be involved and how you intend to reach out to veterans and their family members in your area, to participate as moderators, panelists, or audience members.
  2. Describe the audience you intend to reach and how and where you will publicize your programming. Identify a local Veteran Liaison to assist in outreach in their communities.
  3. Identify the scholars you plan to invite and describe their roles in your proposed public programming.
  4. Discuss any community partnerships you plan to develop or exploit to support your proposed programming.
  5. Describe the size and demographic profile of the community your institution services.
  6. Please indicate when you plan to offer your proposed programming, and, if you are applying for the traveling exhibition, when you can and cannot display the exhibition. We will try to accommodate these requests, but cannot guarantee requested dates. Sites that receive the exhibition near major holidays will be granted the exhibit for a longer period.

Thank you for your application.

For more information, please contact: