Profile profile for KarvellasA

Anna Karvellas

Philanthropy Initiative Program Manager

B.A., University of Michigan

Role in Museum: 
  • Oversees management of the Philanthropy Initiative and the Great Americans Medal program and interview series with David M. Rubenstein
  • Produces Philanthropy Initiative programming, including the annual Power of Giving symposium
  • Builds strategic partnerships and manages relationships to bring high-profile projects to fruition to accomplish museum and institutional goals

Anna Karvellas joined the National Museum of American History in 2007. During her tenure, she has held positions in the museum’s offices of External Affairs and Curatorial Affairs as well as the Lemelson Center for Invention and Innovation. In 2015, she played key roles in launching the Philanthropy Initiative and Great Americans Medal award program. Previously, she oversaw the Lemelson Center’s Places of Invention Affiliates Project—a collaborative model for the Smithsonian, its Affiliate institutions, community partners, and the public to document their places of invention and discover how invention can be a transformative lens for understanding local history. This project was part of the museum’s award-winning National Science Foundation-funded Places of Invention exhibition (2015). Karvellas also edited, with Arthur P. Molella, the companion book to the exhibition and was a member of the exhibition team. Karvellas' first museum position was as Managing Editor of the William Steinway Diary Project in the Division of Culture and the Arts. She developed the William Steinway Diary website, an online edition of the 2,500-page diary written by an important figure in the cultural, political, financial, and physical development of New York City and Steinway & Sons. She also curated the museum exhibition, A Gateway to the 19th Century: The William Steinway Diary, 1861–1896 (2010).




  • The Great Americans Medal Award Program and interview series with David M. Rubenstein
  • Meet a Philanthropist program series
  • The Philanthropy Initiative
  • Philanthropy Where You Are regional program series
  • The Power of Giving: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life annual symposium


  • Places of Invention


  • A Gateway to the 19th Century: William Steinway’s Diary, 1861–1896
  • Giving in America launch
  • Places of Invention


  • Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation website
  • The Philanthropy Initiative website
  • The William Steinway Diary website
Awards, Honors, and Special Recognition: 
  • Places of Invention won the Smithsonian's inaugural 2017 Excellence in Exhibitions Award
  • Places of Invention won the Society for the History of Technology's 2016 Dibner Award for Excellence in Museum Exhibits
  • 2013 National Museum of American History Peer Award for Risk-Taking as a member of the Lemelson Center’s Innoskate team

Blog Posts


Places of Invention. Arthur P. Molella and Anna Karvellas, editors. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press: 2015.

A companion to the National Museum of American History exhibition. Building on 20 years of research by the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for Invention and Innovation, Places of Invention explores how place—whether physical, social, or cultural—supports, constrains, and shapes innovation. Places of Invention tells the stories of people who lived, worked, played, collaborated, adapted, took risks, solved problems, and sometimes failed—all in the pursuit of something new. It dispels the myth of the lone inventor and shows that invention and innovation abound—not just in the Silicon Valleys of America but in hometowns across the country. Dispatches from learning labs in Seattle, Peoria, and Pittsburgh take the reader into the field where Smithsonian Affiliate museums are using invention and innovation as a transformative lens for understanding local history, cultivating creativity, and engaging communities.