“Although most Americans participate in giving in some way, the history of voluntary giving for the public good is not generally well known. Besides being a defining tradition in American life, philanthropy is also critical to the operation of museums, historic sites, historical societies, and other cultural institutions.

Why and how should curators and historians at these public institutions explore this topic with our visitors? And can understanding American philanthropy benefit those in the public history field today who work with fundraising and development?”

In the Autumn 2017 issue of History News, Amanda B. Moniz, the David M. Rubenstein Curator of Philanthropy at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, discusses the development and impact of over three hundred years of philanthropy in America. Tracing the idea of giving in imperial, universal, national, international, and personal contexts, Moniz shows how charitable endeavors are influenced by the times and social climates in which they take place. She also emphasizes how an understanding of how and why people have historically given to philanthropic causes can benefit those seeking to raise funds for their organizations today.

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