The Humanities Research Centre (HRC) was established in 1972 as a national and international centre for excellence in the humanities and a catalyst for innovative and interdisciplinary humanities research within the Australian National University and beyond. As one of Australia’s prime gateways to humanities scholarship throughout the world, the HRC promotes advanced research in and across the humanities through an annual Visiting Fellowship Program and a range of conferences, workshops, seminars, and symposia that it supports and hosts under an annual theme. Beyond this, and beyond its annual theme, the role of the HRC is one of outreach and advocacy for the humanities, engaging with major cultural institutions and with the public at large on issues of immediate concern to the intellectual and cultural life of the nation.
The HRC interprets the ‘humanities’ generously, recognising that new methods of theoretical enquiry have done much to break down the traditional distinction between the humanities and the social sciences, the humanities and the creative arts, and the humanities and the natural and technological sciences. The Centre encourages vitally interdisciplinary and comparative work, and seeks to take a challenging as well as a supportive and representative role in relation to existing humanities studies in Australia, giving special attention to topics and disciplines which stand in need of particular stimulus in Australia. One of its central functions is to bring to Australia scholars of international standing who will provoke fresh ideas both within and beyond the academic community.
The strength of the HRC lies in its personnel: in its Visiting Fellows, who are distinguished scholars awarded a place and financial support to carry on their research and writing, and to share their ideas in papers and lectures; in its Advisory Board, comprised of preeminent members of the academy and the community with a commitment to the role of the humanities in the university and the public sphere; in an Academic Executive Committee of scholars from across the ANU which assists with the selection of the annual theme, Visiting Fellows, and appropriate events; in the Friends of the HRC, world-leading scholars from outside the ANU with a past association with the HRC who have agreed to contribute their support and advice on its conduct and future development; in its Adjuncts, or retired ANU staff who have volunteered to assist with the organisation and promotion of the HRC and its activities; and, finally, in its Affiliates, staff currently teaching and/or researching at the ANU who have chosen to associate with the HRC and contribute to the intellectual life of the Centre.
The HRC works closely with ANU’s Digital Humanities Hub. Within the University, the HRC coordinates disciplinary and interdisciplinary strengths in literature, history, art, film, philosophy and intellectual history, music, languages, environmental and medical humanities, and indigenous heritage, art, and culture. Outside the University, the HRC collaborates with other Australian and international research centres and with libraries and other cultural institutions, such as the National Library of Australia National Museum of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, and the National Portrait Gallery. The Centre argues the importance of the humanities in the public sphere through its participation in key national and international networks, such as the Australian Academy of the Humanities (AAH), Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS), The Australian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC) and the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes (CHCI).