Telling the Full History Preservation Fund: FAQ

Telling the Full History Preservation Fund

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about the National Trust's Telling the Full History Preservation Fund grant program. We will continue to update this page between now and the application deadline (December 15, 2021). If you have a question that is not answered here, please email us at


Q: What is the source of funding for this grant program? 
A: In October 2021, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced a major grant to the National Trust for Historic Preservation through NEH’s American Rescue Plan Humanities Grantmaking for Organizations to enable this one-time grant opportunity, Telling the Full History Preservation Fund.  

Q: What is the “humanities?” 
A: The humanities cover a wide range of topics including historic preservation. The National Endowment for the Humanities defines the humanities as:  

“…the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of the social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life. [National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, 1965, as amended.]  

Q: What does “underrepresented” community mean? 
A: This grant program seeks to help interpret and preserve historic places that are of importance to groups of people who are underrepresented amongst the historic places that our country currently preserves and interprets. People from many walks of life have shaped our nation, yet only a fraction of our shared cultural heritage recognizes the roles they have played and, far too often, their struggles and accomplishments have been lost, forgotten, or obscured. Through this grant program, the National Trust seeks to interpret and preserve historic places where all people see themselves reflected in a more truthful and inclusive collective history.  

Q: What is a “historic place?” 
A: Defined broadly, a historic place is a culturally significant physical site, landscape, structure, commercial district, residential neighborhood, building, and archaeological remains. The historic place may be urban, suburban, or rural. It may be a village, town, or city. Importantly, Telling the Full History Preservation Fund is a place-based grant program, and the applicant’s proposed grant-funded activities must relate to the interpretation and/or preservation of a historic place or historic places.  

Q: What does it mean to “interpret and preserve” a historic place?
A:  To “interpret” a historic place means to convey to the public the narratives associated with the place and with the people who value the place. In effect, interpretation is storytelling for the public about a historic place. Interpretation of a historic place may pertain to tangible aspects of the place or to intangible culture associated with the place.  

Defined broadly, interpretation for the public may take the form of informative and inspiring programming, walking or driving tours, exhibits, lecture series, programs for K-12 teachers or students, interpretive signage and markers, and GIS story-mapping. Interpretation of a historic place may be delivered in-person, virtually, and a hybrid of in-person and virtual. We welcome innovative interpretive methodologies. However, for this NEH-funded program, eligible grant-funded activities do not include the creation or performance of art.  

To “preserve” a historic place means to conserve the culturally significant physical aspects of a historic place. For the purposes of this grant program, preservation of a historic place may include planning work related to: 

  • Restoring the historic place to its original appearance
    • Rehabilitating the historic place to serve a modern-day purpose while retaining its character-defining historic features 
  • Stabilizing the historic place as it is today in order to stop its deterioration 
  • Protecting the historic place against harm 
  • Identifying, researching, and documenting the historic place to enable its preservation 

The National Park Services provides helpful definitions here.

Q: Can grants from this fund be used for brick and mortar/physical restoration of a property?
A: No. Construction costs are not an eligible expense under this funding opportunity.

Q: Can a grant from this fund be used to create or perform art?
A: No. For this NEH-funded program, the humanities do not include the creation or performance of art.  

Q: Can a grant from this fund be used to create a documentary?
A: Yes, but the documentary must focus on telling the story of an underrepresented community and that story must be centered in a historic place. The documentary must interpret the narratives associated with the historic place.

Q: Are matching funds required for this grant program?
A: No, the grant may cover 100% of project-related costs.

Q: We are not a 501(c)3 but do have a fiscal agent that has 501(c)(3) status. Can our fiscal agent apply on our behalf?
A: No, we are not accepting applications from fiscal agents for this grant program. The applicant must be the organization that is directly carrying out the work.

Q: Can you provide more detail on the bidding requirements mentioned in the guidelines?
A: As stated in the guidelines, the National Trust asks that all grantees obtain at least three (3) competitive bids or quotes for any procurement of services that exceed $50,000. This provision applies only to portions of the project supported by National Trust grant funds.

For example, let’s say that using grant funds from the National Trust, you will be hiring an architect who will be charging $75,000 for their work. Even though our maximum grant is only $50,000, if that $50,000 is being applied to that $75,000 fee we would require that you bid out the project. If you have questions about this requirement or would like to seek a waiver to this bidding requirement, please email us.

Q: Can funds be used to pay for the production and installation of interpretive signage or exhibits?
A: Yes, though these materials are considered equipment costs or supplies under the budget. If an item costs less than $5,000, it can be classified as supplies on our budget template. If it an item costs $5,000 or more, it would be classified as equipment. Equipment may not exceed 20% of total project costs.

Q: When would I need a letter of consent from a property owner?
A: You will need to submit a letter of consent if your project involves a historic resource that you do not own and the owner has a vested interest in the project or you need to access the site in order to undertake the project. For example, if your project is working to create a virtual tour of a privately owned property that would not otherwise be accessible to the public and you want to photograph the site’s interior and exterior, we would ask that you provide a letter of support. Another example might include site access by an architect to create measured drawings for a site that is not owned by the applicant.

Q: My project will include a number of sites in my community, but we do not need access to any of them to undertake the project. Do we need to obtain letters of consent from all the property owners of these sites?
A: Not necessarily. For example, if you are doing a city-wide survey or working to list a neighborhood on the National Register, you do not need to provide letters of support from property owners. We recognize we can’t address every situation in an FAQ format, so if you have any questions about this, please email us for clarification.

Q: I work in a department at a university. Can I apply if someone else from my university is already applying?
A: Yes, as long as they are for different projects. Multiple departments from a university or college can apply. When you set up an account, please use your department name in the organization title. For example: ABC University Women’s Studies Department. Please note that we are unlikely to grant more than once to a university or college with multiple applicants

Q: My university has received an NEH ARP grant. Am I still eligible for this grant program?
A: You are eligible as long as you have a separate DUNS number from the program that received the grant, and the project meets all of the other requirements.