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Making history

Nine history scholars win revamped Dan David award, now field’s largest prize

Academics, curators and other types of historians studying everything from museum storage to environmental history win $300,000 from Tel Aviv-based foundation

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Workers lug a capital, the top of a column, in Palmyra, Syria, sometime between 1920 and 1933. How artifacts like this made their way into museums is part of the research of Mirjam Brusius, one of nine winners of the 2022 Dan David prize. (Matson Collection/American Colony Jerusalem, via Library of Congress)
Workers lug a capital, the top of a column, in Palmyra, Syria, sometime between 1920 and 1933. How artifacts like this made their way into museums is part of the research of Mirjam Brusius, one of nine winners of the 2022 Dan David prize. (Matson Collection/American Colony Jerusalem, via Library of Congress)

An osteoarcheologist, scholars of historical Black philanthropy and antebellum jurisprudence, and curators focused on African and post-Holocaust narratives are among the nine winners of the overhauled Dan David Prize, which announced its newest cohort this week.

The award, which bills itself as the world’s largest history prize, will grant the nine winners exploring various facets of the past $300,000 each. This is the first year the prize is focusing solely on historical scholarship, shifting from its previous multi-disciplinary format which had awarded three million-dollar prizes under a “past, present, future” rubric.

The winners of the 2022 prize are:

    • Mirjam Brusius, a cultural historian who investigates how objects made their way into the major museums and collections, what happened to them there, and why some artifacts wallow in storage.
    • Bart Elmore, an environmental historian who uses everyday products – from soda to seeds – to demonstrate how large multinational firms have reshaped global ecosystems.
    • Tyrone Freeman, a historian of philanthropy who researches African-American charitable giving and activism, rethinking traditional views of philanthropy.
    • Verena Krebs, a cultural historian who draws on material culture and art, alongside written sources, to uncover the complicated relationship between Ethiopia and Western Christendom.
    • Efthymia Nikita, an osteoarchaeologist who uses a wide range of innovative methods to unlock what human skeletal remains reveal about the health, diets and mobility of ancient peoples.

      Nana Oforiatta Ayim, one of the nine winners of the 2022 Dan David Prize (Courtesy Nana Oforiatta Ayim)
    • Nana Oforiatta Ayim, a curator, writer, filmmaker and public historian whose work re-centers African narratives, and has developed a mobile museum that draws on local traditions of knowledge and display as it travels across Ghana.
    • Kristina Richardson, a social and cultural historian of the medieval Islamic world who works with understudied manuscripts, focusing attention on non-elites and marginalized groups, from Roma printers to free and unfree African and Asian laborers.

      Natalia Romik, one of the nine winners of the 2022 Dan David Prize (Courtesy Jacek Kolodzjeski)
    • Natalia Romik, a public historian, architect and curator whose work focuses on Jewish memory and commemoration of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, with a focus on uncovering and preserving Jewish wartime hiding places.
    • Kimberly Welch, who uses endangered local legal archives from the antebellum American South to explore lawsuits brought by free and enslaved Black people, revealing a new picture of the agency of African-Americans in the Antebellum era.

The winners will be honored at an award ceremony in Tel Aviv in May.

The prize, endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University, was established in 2001 by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Dan David.

It was initially dedicated to recognizing achievements in rotating disciplines of the sciences and the humanities, and was redesigned in 2021 ahead of its 20th anniversary.

Ariel David, a Dan David Prize board member and son of the founder, said the decision to rework the prize was made in recognition of the fact that history scholarship attracts less investment than other fields outside the humanities.

“For this reason we have chosen to focus exclusively on the historical disciplines and support emerging scholars and practitioners, within and beyond the academy, at a stage in their career when the Prize can make a bigger impact,” he said.

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