NEH Launches Open Competition for Design of New National Humanities Medal

As many installments of the Olympic Games have taught us, designing a good medal ain’t easy. The National Endowment for the Humanities is casting a wide net in its bid to freshen up the National Humanities Medal, the coveted yet less than dazzling medallion (pictured) bestowed by the President since 1997 to “individuals or groups who have made outstanding contributions to the humanities.” The diverse bunch of past recipients—including poet John Ashbery, former Metropolitan Museum of Art director Philippe de Montebello, art critic Hilton Kramer, and the Norman Rockwell Museum—have all received a text-heavy disk that lauds them, on an illustrated plaque floating atop a bed of what looks like tickertape, for “expanding our understanding of the world.” Think you can do better? Start sketching. Entries to the freshly launched National Humanities Medal Design Competition will be accepted until February 1, 2013. To be considered, designs must include the words “National Humanities Medal” and leave room on the back (at least 3 inches by 1.5 inches) for the name of the medalist to be engraved. The winner, to be selected by NEH chairman Jim Leach on the advice of a panel of judges (“selected for their expertise in the fields of art, sculpture, minting, and cultural management”), will be announced on April 15, and the new medal will debut at next year’s White House medal ceremony.