Report - Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences

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Report - Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences

Cultural Institutions in American Life

The humanities and social sciences are lifelong pursuits, and they are all around us:

in schools, museums, libraries, the media, and on the Internet. While the words

humanities and social sciences may sound like purely academic categories, millions

depend on these disciplines in their daily lives as a perpetual source of pleasure

and enrichment. Reading, conversing, interpreting current events, savoring a welldesigned

image, object, or song: our everyday pastimes reveal a fundamental need to

be imaginatively transported, carried out of ourselves into an enriched experience we

could not generate on our own.

Such experiences are not merely pleasurable. Public humanities programs and cultural

institutions sustain strong communities and fulfill many functions in American

life, for people of all ages and from all backgrounds. Reading programs offer paths

to greater literacy, self-expression, and improved communications skills. Projects

documenting the history and stories of immigrant and ethnic communities build

up a positive sense of identity and provide vital links between peoples and cultures.

Arts programs supply opportunities for young people to develop their creativity and

Percentage of Americans 18 Years and Older Who Visited an Art Museum or Gallery in the Previous 12 Months,

by Age, 1982–2008

35%

30%

■ 1982 ■ 1992 ■ 2002 ■ 2008

25%

Percent

20%

15%

10%

5%

0%

18–24

25–34

35–44

45–54

Age

55–64

65–74

75+

All Ages 18+

Source: National Endowment for for the the Arts, Survey of of Public Participation in in the the Arts (1982, 1992, 2002, 2008). Estimates generated using the Cultural

Policy and and the the Arts Data Archive’s (cpanda) online data analysis system at at http://www.cpanda.org/stage/studies/a00260.

The Heart of the Matter 49

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