Five questions with Amanda Moniz, Curator of Philanthropy at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

Headshot of Amanda MonizWhat do we love more than helping you navigate the Smithsonian? Sending someone from the Smithsonian to your neighborhood! Our people are our greatest resource and when new curators join the Smithsonian family, we like to share their stories with our network. This week, I had the chance to ask a few questions of Amanda Moniz, Curator of Philanthropy at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, about her career. Read on to learn why she’s eager to share her passion with Affiliates. Interested in bringing a Smithsonian speaker to your organization? Contact your National Outreach Manager!

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got to the Smithsonian. What exactly is a curator of Philanthropy?

I’m an early American historian specializing in the history of philanthropy. My first book, From Empire to Humanity: The American Revolution and the Origins of Humanitarianism, explores how Americans and Britons rebuilt their relationships after the Revolutionary rupture through humanitarian collaboration and, in the process, transformed philanthropy.

Before I joined the staff of the Smithsonian, I worked at the National History Center of the American Historical Association. Its mission is to bring historical perspectives into public and policy conversations so that job provided great experience for this position with its emphasis on engaging the public in exploring history.

A lot of people ask what a curator of philanthropy is! My job entails collecting objects that tell stories about the history of Americans’ gifts of time, talent, and treasure for the public good; working on exhibitions; researching and writing, and sharing stories about the history of giving in other ways such as through social media.

It has been a little over a year since you began at the Smithsonian. What have you enjoyed most about working at the National Museum of American History? And what are you looking forward to?

I love hearing people’s stories about giving. Most Americans give their time or resources in some way, shape, or form. I’ve talked with visitors, colleagues, well-known philanthropists, and people who work in nonprofits, and heard amazing stories about what giving and receiving has meant in their lives and their families’ lives. Their stories inspire me as I think about my work.

I’m really excited about building the philanthropy collection. A lot of people are initially surprised at the idea of exploring the history of giving through objects. I think the collection has the potential to open new perspectives on the role of philanthropy on the forming and re-forming of our nation.

So far, what is the most amazing artifact you’ve come across and why? What story does it tell?

I recently acquired a basically unknown portrait of Eliza Hamilton, the widow of Alexander Hamilton. She and other women founded a charity known as the Orphan Asylum Society of the City of New York in 1806 when women in the United States were new to organized benevolence. (The organization is still in existence and now known as Graham Windham. The painting was generously donated by Graham Windham.) The portrait was painted in the mid-1800s and shows her as an older woman. Her resolute look and direct gaze are captivating. I also love the portrait because it helps us tell the story of the emergence and development of women’s philanthropy.

How does one collect philanthropy?

The history of philanthropy is the story of people mobilizing resources (of time, talent, and treasure) to support causes and institutions in hopes of having an impact. I’m looking for artifacts that help us understand the various dimensions of those developments from a range of perspectives.

The first object I collected was a nest box used in bluebird conservation. Nest boxes provide habitats for bluebirds and have helped revive the populations of the bird, which had fallen because development had disrupted the birds’ habitats. The nest box is a great object because it helps to effect the change bluebird conservation advocates are pursuing.

You’ve mentioned that sharing is “perhaps the most fun part of a curator’s job.” We have Affiliates in 46 states, Puerto Rico, and Panama and we are always looking for ways to share Smithsonian resources with them. What would you like to share with them?

I’d love to let our Affiliates know about some of our online resources.

Later in March, we’ll be adding a section on “Giving and the Arts” to the online version of Giving in America. (“Giving and the Arts” will replace the case on environmental philanthropy in the physical exhibition on March 22.) In addition to the online exhibition, we have a website for the Smithsonian’s Philanthropy Initiative with videos, links to blog posts, and more. We also have robust social media focused on philanthropy, and I hope folks will join the conversation. I love sharing what I’m learning and am eager to learn from others!

Follow us at:

• Philanthropy Blog Posts: http://s.si.edu/PhilanthropyBlog
• Facebook: National Museum of American History
• Instagram and Twitter: @amhistorymuseum

BONUS: Read Amanda’s blog from April 2017 shortly after she joined our Smithsonian family.

Amanda Moniz is the David M. Rubenstein Curator of Philanthropy in the Division of Home and Community Life. The Philanthropy Initiative is made possible by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and David M. Rubenstein, with additional support by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative, a grantmaking program of Fidelity Charitable.

News from SITES

Our friends at SITES have some exciting new traveling exhibitions to share with you, and some last-minute booking opportunities for those looking for a great exhibition to fit in to your schedule.

New Exhibitions

100 Faces of War
An exploration into the meaning of service, the exhibition features 100 portraits of veterans from every state and the District of Columbia who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Accompanied by a personal, unedited statement from each sitter, the portraits are an homage to these individuals who collectively represent a cross section of those who have served.

Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill: Photographs by Jerry Dantzic
This exhibition provides a rare glimpse into the music icon’s public and private life just two years before her untimely death at the age of 44. Includes 65 framed pigment prints, panels, ephemera, and vinyl excerpts from the work of author Zadie Smith.

Woodcut by Robert Blackburn

Robert Blackburn Blue Things, 1963–1970 Woodcut 20 x 26 Wes and Missy Cochran, Cochran Collection Photograph by Karl Peterson

Robert Blackburn & Modern American Printmaking
Robert Blackburn (1920-2003) was a key artist in the development of printmaking in the twentieth century. His masterful expertise with the medium helped define the overall aesthetic of the American “graphics boom.” This exhibition examines Blackburn’s life and work, and features original prints by Blackburn and the artists with whom he collaborated, including Robert Rauschenberg, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Grace Hartigan, and Will Barnet.

Men of Change
Men of Change will present for new generations the stories of approximately 25 African American heroes—both the known and unknown– who stand as icons on the nation’s historical landscape. Features large-scale photographs, collage, video, freestanding 3-D art reproductions and more.

A New Moon Rises
Featuring large-scale, high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface taken since 2009 by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC). These striking images help answer our questions about the Moon’s formation, its continuing geological evolution, and its relationship to Earth and the solar system.

 

School girls reciting the pledge of allegiance

School girls reciting the pledge of allegiance
Dorothea Lange, Courtesy of National Archives

Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the nation was overcome by shock, anger, and fear—a fear exaggerated by long-standing prejudice against Asians. In response, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which sent 75,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry and 45,000 Japanese nationals to incarceration centers. This is the powerful story of the incarceration and the people who survived it.

Last Minute Booking Opportunities at a discounted rate!

Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project
May 19 – July 29, 2018 ($3,500 for 10 weeks, plus shipping) and
August 18 – October 28, 2018 ($3,500 for 10 weeks, plus shipping)

Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard
June 16 – August 26, 2018 ($2,750 for 10 weeks, plus shipping) and
September 15 – November 25, 2018 ($4,125 for 10 weeks, plus shipping)

 

A Very Young Crater

A Very Young Crater. Courtesy NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

A New Moon Rises
February 2 – April 28, 2019 ($15,000 for 12 weeks, plus shipping)

For questions about any exhibition, please contact the SITES Scheduling Department: 202.633.3140, or sites_schedule@si.edu

Coming Up in Affiliateland in March 2018

D. C.
Affiliate participants in the Will to Adorn project from the Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco) and the Institute of Texan Cultures (San Antonio) will discuss their work with students as part of the Youth Access Grant Forum in Washington on 3.1.

Curator Leslie Przybylek from the Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh) will be a panelist in the program  Innovative Lives: How Women Shaped the Alcohol Industry at the National Museum of American History, 3.16.

PENNSYLVANIA
The African American Museum in Philadelphia  will screen the Smithsonian Channel program  The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X in Philadelphia, 3.1.

Jasper Francis Cropsey, The Coast of Genoa, 1854, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Aileen B. Train, Helen B. Spaulding and Julia B. Key

FLORIDA
The Polk Museum of Art will exhibit Jasper Cropsey’s The Coast of Genoa, a painting on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Lakeland, starting 3.3.

CONNECTICUT
The Connecticut Historical Society will host a lecture and book signing by Dr. Richard Kurin on The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects in Hartford, 3.5.

KENTUCKY
The Frazier History Museum will host an exhibition on The Magnificent Mona Bismarck, who donated fashion collections to the National Museum of American History, opening in Louisville, 3.15.

NEW YORK
The Rockwell Museum will host a talk by curator Matilda McQuaid of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum as part of their Art + Science lecture series in Corning, 3.22.

WASHINGTON
The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience will host a workshop entitled  Teacher Creativity Studios: APA Cultural Presence in the Classroom in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Center for Learning and Digital Access in Seattle, 3.24.