Humanities Connection | WYPR

Humanities Connection

Thursday at 4:44 pm
  • Hosted by Hosted by: Maryland Humanities Executive Director Dr. Phoebe Stein

Humanities Connection explores the role of the humanities in our daily lives, and features lively reflections around topics like education, literature, health care, race, politics, religion, history, and more.

Joining Phoebe for each segment is a series of special guests, including Maryland Humanities partners, board members, and local humanists. The result is a mix of stories and conversation designed to shed light on the human experience and stimulate the intellectual curiosity of our listeners.

Archive Prior to 11/5/13

Theme music created by Brian Whaley at

Visit Maryland Humanities to access additional resources, videos, and other dynamic content related to each segment.

Maryland Humanities is a statewide, educational nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities.

What are the humanities? The humanities explore the human experience. Through the humanities, we think about who we are – our ideas, our histories, our literature, our values – and how we relate to one another. The humanities include literature, history, philosophy, archaeology, languages, theology, jurisprudence, ethics, art history, architecture, and some disciplines of the social sciences.

Networked Anthropology

Dec 16, 2016

How have smartphones and our constant connectivity changed the way we travel- and the way we relate to one another through the places we visit? Towson University anthropology professors Samuel Collins and Matthew Durington tell us how their research led them to the new idea of “networked anthropology.” You can read more about this idea on their Tumblr. 

A Feast for the Senses

Nov 17, 2016

What was life like in the Middle Ages in Europe? A Feast for the Senses: Art and Experience in Medieval Europe, a new exhibition from the Walters Art Museum sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, depicts the human experience of that time through hundreds of life-inspired works of art. Joaneath Spicer, acting curator of the exhibition, tells us more.

Public Libraries as the New Commons

Nov 10, 2016

Placemaking is the idea of utilizing a community’s local assets in order to create quality public spaces that contribute to the well-being of the community and create a sense of belonging through place. Silvia Blitzer Golombek, a nonprofit consultant and secretary of the Board of Maryland Humanities, shares how public libraries serve as such spaces for local communities.

Classics in the Modern Age

Nov 3, 2016

The enduring value of classic literature lies in its exploration of the human condition and also its ability for modern interpretation. Can today’s students in our modern world relate to classics that were written centuries before their time? Towson University Professor John McLucas provides this reflection on a recent class on Ariosto’s epic 16th century Italian poem, Orlando furioso.

The First Folio of Shakespeare

Oct 27, 2016

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, the Folger Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities are bringing the First Folio of Shakespeare to one site in every state. With support from Maryland Humanities, St. John’s College is hosting the Folio in Maryland from November 1–December 4. Christopher Nelson, President of St. John’s College, tells us why the First Folio is so important.

Public Philosophy in Today’s World

Oct 20, 2016

The study philosophy explores the human condition and searching for meaning in the world around us. Today, public philosophy brings the practices of philosophy to public forums to address social, ethical, and other contemporary issues. Aaron Rodriguez, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Morgan State University, provides a reflection on the growing field of public philosophy and how his students are putting philosophy to action. 

Then & Now: Baltimore in the Public Eye

Oct 13, 2016

Ever wondered how Baltimore looked a hundred years ago, compared to today? In a new temporary exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, supported by Maryland Humanities, you can glimpse side-by-side comparisons of historic Baltimore landmarks, then and now. Anita Kassoff, executive director of the Baltimore Museum Industry, tells us more.

Aaron Douglas and All American Boys

Oct 6, 2016

This year’s One Maryland One Book, All American Boys, tells the powerful story of two high school boys, one white and one black, brought together by injustice. One of the protagonists, Rashad, is a budding artist whose work is influenced by renowned painter Aaron Douglas. Rena M. Hoisington, Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs at The Baltimore Museum of Art, tells us more about Douglas’s life and work.

Pulitzer-Prize Winning Drama

Sep 29, 2016

This year Maryland Humanities is celebrating the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes with a yearlong series of events highlighting the impact these award-winning works have on our lives. As part of this celebration, Olney Theatre Center will present a three-day festival of readings and discussions from September 30 to October 2 examining Pulitzer Prize-winning plays. Staff members from Olney Theatre Center tell us how these works changed their lives.

One Maryland One Book, Through the Eyes of the Library

Sep 23, 2016

Each fall Maryland Humanities’ One Maryland One Book program brings together diverse people in communities across Maryland through the shared reading and discussion of one book. Discussions occur at public libraries, high schools, colleges, museums, bookstores, correctional facilities, and other locales around the state. Lynn Wheeler, Executive Director of the Carroll County Public Library, shares why One Maryland One Book is a vitally important program for libraries throughout Maryland.

One Maryland One Book

Sep 15, 2016

One Maryland One Book, a program of Maryland Center for the Book at Maryland Humanities, is the state’s largest reading and discussion program. Each fall, this program brings together diverse groups of Marylanders from across the state through the shared experience of reading the same book. Andrea Lewis, Program Officer for Maryland Center for the Book, tells us more.

50 Years of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Sep 8, 2016

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Virginia is hosting a four-day celebration, Human/Ties. This public humanities forum will be held from September 14th through the 17th in Charlottesville, Virginia. NEH Chairman William Adams joins us now to reflect on the last fifty years of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Democracy Then & Now

Sep 1, 2016

As the upcoming general election approaches, we reflect upon the critical importance of political participation. “Democracy Then and Now: Citizenship and Public Education,” a Maryland Humanities-supported initiative at the University of Maryland, asks students, faculty, staff, and all Marylanders to consider how public higher education has contributed to the inclusion and exclusion of certain people in full citizenship, including voting rights. Kimberly Coles, associate professor of English at University of Maryland, tells us about a recent court case that sheds light on the role of public education in civic participation

History of Canton

Aug 25, 2016

Have you ever wondered how the neighborhood of Canton was given its name?The first ethnic Chinese to set foot in the U.S. right here in Baltimore’s Harbor in 1785 when John O’Donnell, an Irish merchant, landed his ship, the Pallas, in Baltimore Harbor in the newly independent United States on August 12, 1785. Dr. Evan Dawley an Assistant Professor of History at Goucher College tells us more about the world-traveler who gave name to an iconic East Baltimore neighborhood and the contribution his family made to establishing Baltimore as a leading hub for trade.

Intersection of Journalism and Life

Aug 18, 2016

Sometimes a journalist gravitates toward an issue without realizing why. Baltimore Sun enterprise editor Diana Sugg tells us about the moment she understood why she had been drawn to end-of-life stories, and how the knowledge she gathered from working on those stories impacted her personal life.

Evaluating the Arts and Humanities

Aug 11, 2016

While many of us know the value of the arts and humanities and the profound impact they have on our everyday lives, it is sometimes hard to evaluate that impact through traditional qualitative methods. Tahira Mahdi, a Ph.D. Candidate in Human Services Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, shares her approach to assessing the impact of the arts and humanities.

Aging In Your Community

Aug 4, 2016

How does where we live affect our health as we grow older? Sarah Szanton, Associate Director for Policy at the Center on Innovative Care in Aging at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, tells us how we can help older adults maintain a sense of community as they age.

A Brief History of Black Feminism

Jul 28, 2016

Beyonce’s Lemonade has brought the black feminist movement into the national spotlight, bringing about many conversations and perspectives on the topic. Melissa Brown, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, delves into the history and the pioneering women behind the movement.

Historic Ocean City

Jul 21, 2016

Many of us spend our summer vacation time at Ocean City – but do you know the history behind this scenic beach and boardwalk? Meagan Baco, communications director at Preservation Maryland, tells us how this go-to summer spot came to be, and how her organization works to preserve its history for generations to come.

Courtesy of Robert Breck Chapman Collection, University of Baltimore Langsdale Library Special Collections.

Some of the greatest gifts we pass down to future generations are our experiences, our stories, our histories. But how do you preserve and share a history that may have already been lost to time? Angela Koukoui, archival technician at the University of Baltimore, shares how she uncovered some of her own history in the library archives.

Reading Between the Lines

Jul 7, 2016

As adults, we know well the power of literacy – but how do we pass that along to our children in a way that encourages them to truly enjoy reading? Rona Sue London, children’s book curator at the Ivy Bookshop, tells us how she shares her love of reading with children.

Engaging in History Through Caricatures

Jun 30, 2016

Ever wanted to have a conversation with Ernest Hemingway?  Each July, Maryland Humanities’ living history series Chautauqua brings historical figures to life. For the past twenty years, artist Tom Chalkley has drawn caricatures of the featured historical figures for Chautauqua. Chalkley tells us what he has learned through that process.

The Humanities and Environmental Research

Jun 23, 2016

The Zika outbreak has many wondering how to control mosquito and other pest populations throughout the country. How might the humanities play a role in that? Dawn Biehler, author and associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Systems at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, shares the humanist approach to her research in Baltimore.

Environmental Humanities

Jun 16, 2016

Have you ever thought about the many connections between ourselves and our environment? At a recent Maryland Humanities discussion panel celebrating the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes, panelist Mckay Jenkins introduced the idea of environmental humanities. Now he tells us a bit more about how he teaches that concept to his students at the University of Delaware, and how we can embrace it.

bLAM Collective

Jun 2, 2016

Ever wondered how local librarians, archivists, and museum curators learn and share information with each other? Started as a Twitter group, the Baltimore Libraries, Archives, and Museums Collective (bLAMcollective) brings these professionals together for networking, sharing of ideas, and professional development in the digital humanities. Jennifer Ferretti, librarian at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Decker Library, tells us more.

Exploring the Past That Is All Around Us in Maryland

May 26, 2016

Do you love learning about local history, but don’t want to spend your summer cooped up in a library? Historian Mike Dixon tells us how we can discover and explore Maryland’s rich history simply by getting outside this summer.

Honoring Veterans Through Oral History

May 19, 2016

As Memorial Day approaches, we think about the best ways to honor our veterans. One of Maryland Humanities’ programs, an oral history project with Southern High School in Anne Arundel County, sought to do just that by connecting high school students with local Vietnam veterans in order to record and preserve their histories. Jennifer Davidson, social studies teacher at Southern High School and coordinator of this project, tells us more.


May 12, 2016

In response to the negative press coverage surrounding last year’s uprising, local nonprofit Wide Angle Youth Media was inspired to document and share positive images of Baltimore youth. The resulting compilation, made possible in part by Maryland Humanities, shares photographs and essays showcasing Baltimore youth from more than 15 neighborhoods. Today we hear from three Baltimore students who participated in creating and curating the book—Latrell, Raymond, and Imani— on how the experience affected them.

#BlackMinds Matter Baltimore Rising: Summoning the Village

May 5, 2016

Through its #BlackMindsMatter Baltimore Rising: Summoning the Village Call to Action series, sponsored in part by a grant from Maryland Humanities, the Black Mental Health Alliance for Education & Consultation, Inc. (BMHA) has created an innovative model of community engagement designed to infuse mental health strategies and solutions into the current and longstanding challenges facing Baltimore City. Jan Desper Peters, executive director at the BMHA, tells us more.

Connecting with Students Through Literature

Apr 21, 2016

Have you ever loved a book so much you wished you could write a letter to the author? That’s the foundation of our annual letter-writing contest for middle and high school students, Letters About Literature. A national Library of Congress program that is facilitated in Maryland by the Maryland Humanities Council, Letters About Literature promotes reading and writing skills and inspires creativity in its many participants.  Kimberly Dyar, teacher librarian at Rising Sun High School in Cecil County and recipient of last year’s Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year award, tells us how this program allowed her to connect with one of her students.