The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Andrew Wyndham

Andrew Wyndham is the director of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Media Programs and creator and executive producer of the national weekly public radio program, BackStory with the American History Guys. He also executive produces With Good Reason—a public radio program that features teachers and scholars from Virginia’s public colleges and universities. In this podcast, he talks about the role of the humanities in society.



Mr. Wyndham spoke at the Wednesday, August 13, 2014 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held at the Senior Center in Charlottesville. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV Vice President John McCauley.

The coordinating administrator and fund-raiser for BackStory, Mr. Wyndham is responsible for hiring and for personnel and programming oversight and evaluation; proposal writing in support of the project; distribution and promotion; and communication with media consultants, press, and cooperating organizations and agencies. He works to guide the development of the program, with an eye to broad issues of mission and accessibility. With a national consultant, he coordinates BackStory’s promotion to stations, and he works with staff to support the development of digital strategies. He also manages BackStory’s live programming and other special events.

Andrew developed and served as project director for the 2003 Re-Imagining Ireland international conference and festival, which featured more than 130 scholars, journalists, politicians, artists, and citizen activists from Ireland. This program, which was opened by then-President Mary McAleese of Ireland, won the 2004 Helen and Martin Schwartz Prize, awarded by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. Andrew also executive-produced and directed the nationally and internationally broadcast, one-hour Re- Imagining Ireland video documentary and edited Re-Imagining Ireland, a collection of essays published in 2006 by the University of Virginia Press.

Mr. Wyndham also conceived and organized the 1996 international conference and festival, Irish Film: A Mirror Up to Culture, which was opened by Ireland’s Minister for Arts and Culture, Michael D. Higgins (now President of Ireland) and featured 40 Irish filmmakers, writers, and scholars. For fourteen years, he coordinated the Southern Humanities Media Fund, which supported outstanding documentary films and radio programs on the Southern U.S. He earned a B.A. degree with honors at Washington and Lee University and an M.A. in English from the University of Virginia, where he also pursued doctoral studies.

Born in England of Polish-Irish parents, he lived in Ireland from the age of five, coming to the U.S. and Virginia when he was thirteen.

Program Summary

Roger Mudd, broadcast journalist and PBS board member, once asked Andrew, “We’re all about the humanities, right? What is a humanity, anyway?”  Andrew used this question to begin his talk about the nature of the humanities.  The word humanity has to do with an implied contract that we all share that is based on an implicit or assumed trust as we move forward together in life.  Without a shared sense that we can both be trusted, we really couldn’t get on with anything.

What is our responsibility to humanity?  His doctrine is (and he emphasized it was not the official doctrine of the VFH!) when you go a little bit beyond the contract of our humanity and add in the complex experiences that everybody brings and are inevitable, then questions about our humanity in relation to each other can become really puzzling, even confusing and very complex.  We use stories to explore questions about our humanity and give us perspectives on possible answers.  So in answer to Roger Mudd, humanities are the various ways we formally express our sense of and explore our humanity.

No summary can do justice to the intricate interplay of the concepts he explored, but you can listen to the entire presentation above, provided by the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.

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