The Philanthropy Initiative at the National Museum of American History

Launched in December 2015, the Philanthropy initiative is a long-term project to collect, research, document, and display materials relating to the history and impact of American philanthropy, broadly-defined. An annual program, The Power of Giving: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life, and changing exhibition, Giving in America, explore the collaborative power of giving in all forms and at all levels across a wide spectrum of issues and movements. Visitors of all ages and backgrounds come to understand the ways in which Americans’ gifts of time, expertise, and resources continues to shape American history and reflect our nation’s ideas and ideals.

Annual themes focus on philanthropy’s impact on particular areas of need and are designed to spark conversation and make connections between historic and contemporary giving. Our current theme is philanthropy’s impact on issues of sustainability and the environment. In 2018, our focus will shift to philanthropy’s impact on culture and the arts—from support for visual and performing arts and the institutions that house them to the use of culture and the arts to mobilize resources, raise awareness, and pursue a range of aims across philanthropic spheres.

Building the Collection

In December 2016, the Museum welcomed its new David M. Rubenstein curator of philanthropy, Amanda Moniz, who is working to build the Museum’s history of philanthropy collections. Read about her collecting plans, oral history project, and work behind the scenes, plus a full roundup of blog posts about philanthropy.


For questions from the press and general information about the Museum, please call 202-633-3129 or use the contact form for the Office of Communications & Marketing.

Press Releases

Collecting Calls

To suggest an object or subject for collection, please email  

Seeking Junior Red Cross Objects: April 11, 2017 

The Philanthropy Initiative is made possible by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and David M. Rubenstein.

For more on the Philanthropy Initiative, please contact Kari Fantasia, Deputy Director of External Affairs.


From Our Blog

A single-page, typed letter dated July 21, 2010 from David Rockefeller. It begins: "Philanthropists, at their best, try to address serious societal problems and occasionally come up with innovations that lead to enduring change. In the end, success requires much more than financial resources, although money is, of course, essential." It continues fora total of four paragraphs.
Two young girls look through the glass of a museum display to gaze at a blue bucket among other objects like a pair of boots or a bust of a man.
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