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A group of students is standing in a gallery, listening to a guided tour

2024 Wintersession Course: Cultural Philanthropy in the Museum Space

January 7–January 14, 2024, at Dumbarton Oaks | A week-long course for Harvard students with visits to world-class museums and guest lectures by experts in the philanthropy and museum fields. Apply by November 29.

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Course Leaders: Professor Thomas Cummins and Dr. Yota Batsaki

We are living in a second Gilded Age where the explosion of private wealth in tandem with growing social inequality enable philanthropists to exert tremendous influence. In the United States, private giving supports vital sectors and causes, from education and the arts to the environment, science, and human rights. Philanthropy also shapes public opinion and government policy, ultimately influencing the provision of public goods in a democratic society. An understanding of the power and reach of philanthropy is therefore an important component of citizenship. Few places are better suited to this exploration than Dumbarton Oaks: a Harvard research institute, museum, and historic garden given to the University in 1940 and located in the nation’s capital.

This week-long course introduces students to the history, influence, and debates surrounding philanthropy with a focus on the museum space. In dialogue with leaders in the field, the course also introduces students to future careers and the behind-the-scenes workings of cultural institutions. The course includes daily guided visits to local museums such as the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of African American History of Culture, and Glenstone.

Students interested in exploring new fields, or contemplating future careers in the cultural, humanities, and nonprofit sectors, are encouraged to apply. All students will be expected to complete course readings and participate in lectures and site visits. Dumbarton Oaks will provide return travel, shared accommodations, lunch, and cover all site visits. Participants should plan to check in at Dumbarton Oaks on Sunday, January 7 and check out on Sunday, January 14.

Currently enrolled Harvard undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to apply. Interested candidates should submit (1) a résumé or CV and (2) a one-page statement detailing your interest in cultural philanthropy and how this program fits with your career goals and (3) one letter of recommendation to the Embark application by November 29.