On Thursday, December 8, the museum will close at 3:30 p.m. due to a special event; Spark!Lab and Wonderplace will close at 3 p.m.

What Do We Give?

From helping a neighbor to donating entire fortunes for a cause, what Americans give is as diverse as America itself. While gifts of money often receive the most attention, donations of talent, labor, and creativity are equally significant. 

Manumission Document
Frederick, Maryland

Although African Americans who were enslaved could sometimes purchase their liberty, a slave owner’s ability to gift freedom was a constant reminder of his or her power. This document granted freedom to a young girl referred to here as Barby, from George Burckhardt. 

Blood Collection Kit, Mead Johnson
Around 1950

Civilian blood drives, first organized during World War II, have become a staple of civic culture. Registration for organ donation became an option in the 1960s. Living organ donations, first successful in the 1980s, are one of the utmost forms of giving of oneself. 

Organ Donor Card and Pin

From the U.S. Department Health and Human Services


Blood Donation Process Poster, American Red Cross
Late 1900s to early 2000s

Courtesy of National Library of Medicine

Tools and Belt

Volunteerism plays an important role in philanthropy in America. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed lives and homes in the Gulf Coast in 2005, many nonprofit groups organized volunteers to help the recovery effort. Jillian Gross led a team from Habitat for Humanity in rebuilding homes in Louisiana. 

Gift of Jillian Gross