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New program will digitize your family heirlooms for the world to see

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If you've got an attic full of old furniture and photos, it might be time to think about giving it a spring clean — its contents could soon be digitized, thanks to a new grant program set up by the US National Endowment for the Humanities. The new "Common Heritage" offers money to historical groups and institutions to find and digitally record historical documents, photos, and artifacts, taking them from the attics and basements in which they currently reside, and showing them to the world.

The NEH program offers $12,000 grants to historical groups

The NEH program offers sums of up to $12,000 to historical societies, libraries, museums, and other groups to hold day-long events to which people can bring their knick-knacks and artifacts. An item brought to the event will be photographed — with the owner's permission — and recorded in the NEH's online database alongside information about the object. Through this process, the NEH hopes to build up a publicly available collection of historically significant items that would otherwise have been forgotten, left to gather dust in family homes.

The cash provided by the Common Heritage grant can also be used for lectures, exhibits, and other public programming, in a bid to preserve what NEH chairperson William Adams calls a "vitally important part of our country's heritage" for future generations. "We know that America's cultural heritage isn't found only in libraries and museums," Adams says, "but in our homes, in our family histories, and the stories and objects we pass down to our children."