By Karin Wulf, Executive Director of the Omohundro Institute
If there is a year for blue sky thinking—aspirational, bold, and collaborative—this is it.
In five years the United States will mark the semi-quincentennial—the 250th anniversary—of its Declaration of Independence. There will be fireworks, there will be speeches, and surely there will be hotdogs. There will also be a host of local, state, and national-wide events to help all of us learn more and think through the meaning of America’s founding in that 1776 moment.
History organizations will be working to offer meaningful programs that reflect the stated ambitions of the national and state semi-quin commissions for an inclusive commemoration.
For 2026, the OI will do what we do best—support scholars and scholarship for the public good.
Our community has spent years already planning for this important opportunity to share with and learn from communities about the deep, wide, vast early American past. Through a wide range of projects and collaborative work, our conviction that history is not only important, but imperative to how we understand the present and how we plan for our future will continue to guide us.
As individuals we may celebrate in our own ways the central ambitions of American democracy, of equality and inclusion. As a community of scholarship our central, collective commitment is to the fullest history of the nation and of the land and peoples on which is has been built. These are, to borrow a phrase, often hard histories. There are countless inspiring stories in the early American past–of bravery and fortitude and great vision by an incredible diversity of people in exceptionally diverse circumstances. There are foundational histories of settler colonialism and slavery that sit right alongside the foundational histories of democratic government.
Across America, 1776 will explore and share the histories of the eighteenth-century places that have come to be the United States and of the wider contexts of their past. From Puerto Rico to the Pacific Northwest, from Boston to Bisbee, from the Louisiana Bayou through the plains to the White Earth, all of these histories sit at the nation’s foundation. As 2026 commemorates the events of 1776 and the American Revolution, including many of those that took place in localities like the OI’s home in Williamsburg, Virginia, these histories across America are equally vital for all of us to know and to appreciate.
We enter the next five years with our central mission at the heart of our commitment to 2026: to support scholars and scholarship for the public good.
Please continue to check the AcrossAmerica1776 website for updates on OI projects and collaborations related to the 250th anniversary, including calls for proposals. Regular updates also will be published in the OI’s weekly e-newsletter.
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