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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 offers 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 are complemented by guest lectures and trips to museums and cultural institutions in Washington, DC.

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 are expected to complete course readings, create blog and social media postings, and submit a final entry for the Mapping Cultural Philanthropy project.

Dumbarton Oaks reimburses travel costs (economy round-trip airfare or equivalent up to a maximum of $400), covers course materials and class trips, and provides accommodations and weekday lunch for the duration of the course.

For more information about future Wintersession programming, please contact