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A Q&A with 2024 Wintersession Course Participants

Posted On January 29, 2024 | 10:46 am | by briggsm01 | Permalink
Just after ringing in the new year, Dumbarton Oaks welcomed seven Harvard undergraduate students from a diverse array of academic disciplines for the 10th annual occurrence of its Wintersession course.

A group of students closely examining a book inside a library
Anatole Tchikine, Curator of Rare Books and Co-Investigator, Plant Humanities Initiative, leads Wintersession students on a tour of the Rare Books Library.
Just after ringing in the new year, Dumbarton Oaks welcomed seven Harvard undergraduate students from a diverse array of academic disciplines for the 10th annual occurrence of its Wintersession course titled “Cultural Philanthropy in the Museum Space,” led by director of Dumbarton Oaks Thomas Cummins, and executive director Yota Batsaki.

The week-long course, which ran from January 7 through 14, introduced this year’s participants to the profound historical underpinnings, pervasive influence, and dynamic debates surrounding cultural philanthropy, with a particular focus on the museum space. This year’s program featured guest lectures by experts in the philanthropy and museum fields, and included guided visits to world-class museums in Washington, DC, namely the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of African American History of Culture, and Glenstone in Potomac, Maryland.

We spoke with two of our participants, Isabelle Halsey (History and Science, Class of 2025) and Marin Gray (History of Art and Architecture, Class of 2026), about their Wintersession experiences. Here is what they had to say:

What got you interested in Wintersession at DO?

Isabelle: I initially heard about Wintersession from a friend this summer, but I was reminded of the program by my supervisor at the Harvard Art Museums, who recommended Dumbarton Oaks to this year’s student guide cohort. 

Marin: As a History of Art and Architecture student, I had heard about and visited Dumbarton Oaks [through my] classes and was encouraged to apply by current fellow Hannah Chew (2023-2024 Humanities Fellow).

Of the partner institutions you visited, which one did you like the most and why?

A group of students strolling along a path with umbrellas
Wintersession students explore the scenic grounds of Glenstone in Potomac, MD
Isabelle: I most liked the National Gallery of Art, though I only got to explore a small portion of the museum. What I liked the most about the visit was our session with curator Brooks Rich; Dr. Rich gave us a tour of a few pieces from the museum’s drawings and prints collection, which includes works by Rembrandt and Da Vinci, among many others!

Marin: I really enjoyed visiting the Glenstone collection on our last day! It was a perfect conclusion to the week’s discussions on philanthropy and its interactions in cultural spaces, and I appreciated the opportunity to visit a museum that would otherwise be less accessible to students and engage with art in a unique format.

What is something you’ll always remember about this week?

Isabelle: I most enjoyed the seminars with our guest speakers and the other Wintersession participants. I loved learning from not only experts in the field but also my peers, both of whom enriched my understanding of philanthropy, museums, and cultural institutions more broadly.

Marin: I’ll always remember my perspective changing with each discussion and site visit from the Wintersession course. We witnessed and wrestled with the many complexities and layers involved in philanthropy, and my understanding of giving and cultural institutions is so much more nuanced than before. I know I’ll continue to think about and discuss the concepts we engaged with during the course for the rest of my education and career!

What could be expanded upon in our future Wintersession programs?

Isabelle: I loved this Wintersession program. I only wish that there was more time to explore the museums we visited, though it would have been hard to do so with the time that we had!

Marin: I loved experiencing a wide range of museums and cultural spaces, but I would have also enjoyed exploring Dumbarton Oaks and its collections a bit more if we had had more time in the course to do so!


Dumbarton Oaks’ “Wintersession Course: Cultural Philanthropy in the Museum Space” is tailored for Harvard undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in exploring new fields, or considering future careers in the cultural, humanities, and nonprofit sectors. This initiative forms part of Dumbarton Oaks' unwavering commitment to championing the pursuit of the humanities.

Romnick Blanco is the 2023–2024 Dumbarton Oaks Digital Media Fellow.