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By Doug Tattershall

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The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded $30,000 each to architecture professor Sandy Isenstadt and history professor Joanne Melish.

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Jan. 4, 2000 – (Lexington, Ky.) – University of Kentucky professors in architecture and history have each received a $30,000 research fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The NEH fellowships are among the most prestigious awards given in the humanities.

Architecture professor Sandy Isenstadt received an NEH fellowship to complete a book titled “Spaciousness and Middleclass Identity: Modern American Domestic Architecture (1850-1950).” In the book, he explores the relationship between architecture and the perception of spaciousness.

“Especially beginning in the 20th century, designers began to look for ways to make small homes look big to suggest a home that exceeded limited budgets of a growing middle class. In the 1950s, for example, having a view of the surrounding landscape was a big topic. This also affected the legal status of landscape views, as well as their effect on real-estate appraisals,” he said.

History professor Joanne Melish received an NEH fellowship to explore the efforts of the Narragansett Indians of New England to establish their tribal identity. The Rhode Island government revoked the Narragansett’s status as a tribe 200 years ago and bought their tribal lands. The government claimed the Narragansett were Negro rather than Indian because of intermarriage with black slaves and freedmen. However, in the 1970s, the Narragansett began to reassert their status, asking for federal recognition as a tribe and claiming their historic lands. They received recognition in 1983.

Melish will use historical information at the Rhode Island Historical Society collected in the 1970s by both sides of the dispute. She will be the first third-party historian to study the collection. She also will use research data collected during work on her first book, “Disowning Slavery.”

Melish first became interested in the Narragansett while working on this book about slavery and emancipation in New England. She was drawn to the two challenges the Narragansett present to American ideas about race: namely being bi-racial in a society that sees race in terms of strict divisions, and viewing race as a social construction more than as something in one’s blood.

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a total of $5,160,000 in research fellowships this year to 172 researchers. The NEH is an independent federal agency created in 1965 and is the largest funder of humanities programs in the United States.

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