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Wintersession at Dumbarton Oaks

Culture and Philanthropy in America

Philanthropy has always played an important role in the American public sphere, and the present moment is no exception. Moreover, few cities have had their cultural landscape shaped by philanthropy to the extent seen by the nation’s capital, thus providing a stimulating space for reflection on philanthropy’s goals and impact. This ten-day course will offer students historical and contemporary perspectives on the history and influence of philanthropy in America, with an emphasis on the domains of art, culture, and civil society. Daily seminars will be complemented by guest lectures and trips to museums and cultural institutions in Washington, DC.

The January 2018 course includes guest seminars by Stanley Katz (Professor, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University) and Kathleen McCarthy (Director, Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at The Graduate Center, CUNY). Students will participate in guided visits to the Kreeger Museum, the Phillips Collection, Glenstone, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. All course participants will participate in a flagship digital humanities project at Dumbarton Oaks by researching and writing an entry for the Mapping Cultural Philanthropy project.

Owing to its history, Dumbarton Oaks is an ideal setting for exploring the relationship between culture and philanthropy in modern America. In 1940, the diplomat Robert Woods Bliss and his wife Mildred Barnes Bliss donated their estate and art collections to Harvard University with the aim of furnishing a “home of the Humanities” for generations of scholars and the public. Since then, Dumbarton Oaks has served as a crossroads of research, diplomacy, and culture.

Wintersession enrollment is limited to eight students. Both students at the beginning of their college careers who are interested in exploring new fields, and more advanced students researching thesis topics or contemplating future careers in the cultural, humanities, and nonprofit sectors, are encouraged to apply. All students will be expected to complete course readings, create blog and social media postings, and submit a final entry for the Mapping Cultural Philanthropy project. Interested candidates should send (1) a résumé and (2) a one-page statement of interest to by October 30, 2017.

Dumbarton Oaks will reimburse travel costs (economy round-trip airfare or equivalent up to a maximum of $400), cover course materials and class trips, and provide accommodations and weekday lunch for the duration of the course. Students will be expected to arrive at Dumbarton Oaks by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 7, and will depart after 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.