Giving in America

These preview cases are located in the American Stories exhibition.

The two Giving in America preview cases will explore civic philanthropy over the past century. By the turn of the 20th century, a new generation of wealthy Americans increasingly supported secular as well as religious-based institutions, creating some of the nation’s most important and enduring museums, libraries, orchestras, universities, and hospitals. These philanthropists hoped not only to provide educational uplift to fellow citizens, but to showcase their cities on a national and international stage. In the 21st century, private giving continues to shape our culture and communities, through financial gifts big and small, and through donations of time and resources. The display will include a rotating selection of Giving Pledge letters and a kiosk to make all of the letters on loan to the Smithsonian available to visitors.

Artifacts include a register book showing the 1,600 libraries financed by Andrew Carnegie, an 1881 gown designed by Charles Frederick Worth for philanthropist Mary Eno Pinchot, an early edition of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 used for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's inaugural concerts in October 1891, a nurse's cap worn by a student at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing circa 1945, as well as more current civic philanthropy stories.