The Oregon Humanities Center was founded in 1983 through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was organized and greatly expanded in 1987 when its current programs in teaching, research, and public outreach began.

The Oregon Humanities Center is a member of the international Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, the National Humanities Alliance, and the Western Humanities Alliance.

We have received financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), corporations, foundations, scholarly societies, and individuals.


OHC logo (Chinese character for culture)The root of the modern notion of the humanities is to be found in the European Renaissance, when scholars of the revival of classical learning were referred to as “humanists.” These original humanists reacted against medieval scholasticism, which they associated with the spinning out of systems and minutiae that had lost their moorings in experience. The study of Greek and Roman literature remains an important pursuit. Despite the burgeoning of new and exciting fields, few self-respecting modern American universities want to do without a Classics Department. In today’s increasingly intercultural world, however, we need to look around and beyond traditional boundaries. For the Renaissance humanists, going back to the sources meant returning to Greek and Latin. In today’s world, those sources are many and varied. Our logo recognizes this fact. It can be read as the ancient Chinese character that means “culture,” “literature,” “refinement,” “the arts,”—in other words, the humanities. It is pronounced (in Mandarin Chinese) “wen” (sounded something like the English word “one,” with a rising tone); even in its earliest forms it depicted a human figure and it originally meant “pattern.” This character means “culture” or “the arts” not only in China, but elsewhere in the Pacific Rim—in Japan and Korea, for example. The particular rendition of this character was designed for us as our logo happens to look like a dancer. It is joyous, moving, and alive—qualities that characterize many humanistic endeavors and aspirations.

Many thanks to Helen Liu, who helped us to trace the pictograph’s lineage. Thanks also to Teresa Bowerman, who wrote us a thoughtful letter discussing the meanings of the character.