In July 2012, the officers of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a $100,000 officer’s grant to IPRH to lead a planning effort among the fifteen institutional partners, derived from the twelve interdisciplinary centers on then-CIC campuses (those of Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pennsylvania State, Purdue University, and the Universities of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Indiana Bloomington, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska-Lincoln, and Wisconsin-Madison) along with the centers at the Universities of Chicago, Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and Notre Dame.
The logic of this partnership structure is based in the pre-existing association of the 13 CIC-member institutions and their relative geographic proximity, with the inclusion of Notre Dame and UIC to create greater institutional depth within the consortium’s terrain.
Led by Dianne Harris, then-Director of IPRH, the initial planning effort was designed by a committee that included the center directors from UIC, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago. The committee’s work turned on the means of enhancing the development of intellectual contributions to existing museums, archives, and digital humanities resources through multi-campus collaboration, creating opportunities for scholars in recently down-sized humanities fields or departments to establish the critical intellectual mass necessary for the pursuit of research projects or the teaching of highly specialized courses, and developing opportunities for public engagement with the humanities.
After more than a year of work that included the collection of ideas from humanities faculty and graduate students and meetings with all of the center directors, the IPRH proposed a large-scale collaboration under the general rubric of “Humanities Without Walls,” typically abbreviated as "HWW." Together, the group formulated a set of innovative and experimental initiatives enabling them to advance education and research in the humanities. In addition, to test the types of collaboration that might be possible across our institutions, two pilot projects were conducted in the course of the year. One, “Performing the Middle Ages,” was led by Professor Charles Wright, and the other, on the “Uses of Scale in Literary Study,” was helmed by Professor Ted Underwood.
HWW awarded the first round of Global Midwest grants in January 2015. The first cohort of Pre-doctoral Fellows were announced February 2015.
In July 2015, Dianne Harris stepped down at both the Director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities and the HWW PI. She was succeeded by Antoinette Burton in both positions, after which time HWW received a renewal grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, awarded to allow the group to pursue expanded and refined initiatives that built on the consortium’s accomplishments.
The second round of Global Midwest grants were awarded in December 2015. The second cohort of Pre-doctoral Fellows were also announced in December 2015.
The first round of grants for the timely new grand research challenge, “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate,” were awarded in December 2016. The first cohort of Pre-doctoral Fellows from a national call were announced in January 2017.
In June 2020, the Illinois Program for Humanities became the Humanities Research Institute, and HWW received a second renewal grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. At this time, Marquette University also officially joined HWW as the consortium's 16th university partner.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, HWW plans to host its first virtual, national Pre-Doctoral Career Diversity Summer Workshop in summer 2021.