What 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.
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.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia will screen the Smithsonian Channel program The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X in Philadelphia, 3.1.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Congratulations Affiliates on these recent accomplishments!
Citizens Bank and the African American Museum in Philadelphia (PA) have partnered for the 12th year to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Citizens Bank has contributed $25,000 to support the museum’s King Weekend Celebration. The celebration includes four days of events and special activities, culminating in a free and discounted day at the museum on MLK Day 2018.
Telluride Foundation has awarded a grant of $18,000 to assist the Pinhead Institute (Telluride, CO) to pay for its programs in Norwood, the West End, Ridgway and Ouray. In addition, Pinhead Institute has been awarded a $30,000 general operating grant from the Daniels Fund to support K-12 STEM education and internships throughout rural, Southwest Colorado.
Lincoln Financial Foundation awarded the Durham Museum (Omaha, NE) an education grant to provide early childhood education programming.
The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (Dubuque, IA) announced the receipt of four grants for various Museum & Aquarium initiatives:
– The Iowa Department of Natural Resources: Resource Enhancement and Protection – Conservation Education Program has awarded the Museum & Aquarium funds to support the institution’s Citizen Science Research: Mussel Propagation Project.
– Alliant Energy Foundation has awarded the Museum & Aquarium funds to support its current Rivers to the Sea 2.0 Expansion. Through a biological, environmental, and conservation focus, this project includes a robust educational outreach program and supports the recently opened Conservation Lab.
– Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA) has awarded the Museum & Aquarium funding to support its Student Ocean Conference, September 20-21, 2018. The annual conference hosted at the Museum & Aquarium explores the Mississippi River’s impact and interconnectivity to oceans, seas, and subsequent watersheds through a biological, environmental, and conservation focus.
– The Iowa Economic Development Authority, through an Iowa Tourism Grant, has awarded the Museum & Aquarium funds toward a new, custom-built, mobile-first website.
AWARDS & RECOGNITION
Ann Fortescue, Executive Director of the Springfield Museum of Art (Springfield, OH) has been selected to serve on a select state arts group. She will join the Ohio Citizens for the Arts Board, a nonprofit, grassroots arts advocacy organization to promote excellence in the arts, advocate directly with legislators, government leaders and other influential leaders and to build membership.
Union Station, Kansas City (MO) was honored with the Heart of Kansas City Award for “Attraction of the Year”. This prestigious recognition was given by the Greater Kansas City Attraction Association. Union Station was specifically recognized as Attraction of the Year “for its exemplary yearly attendance of over 1.8 million, its internationally-awarded Science City, world-class touring exhibitions, seasonal celebrations and events like the annual Maker Faire and more.”
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, OH) has named Dion Brown as the center’s new president. Mr. Brown will begin his tenure on February 26.
We’re thankful for all the activity in Affiliateland this month. Happy Thanksgiving Affiliates!
Two Affiliates are loaning objects to The Sweat of their Face: Portraying American Workers exhibition at the Smithsonian. The Lowell National Historical Park has lent a wood engraving by Winslow Homer and the High Museum has lent a photograph by Peter Sekaer and an oil painting by Francis Hyman Criss. Opening at the National Portrait Gallery, 11.3.
The San Diego History Center opens the Mail Call exhibition (SITES) which explores the history of America’s military postal system, in San Diego, 11.4.
Richard Kurin, Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large, will lecture on his book, Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem at the Springfield Museums, 11.5.
Teens at five Affiliates continue to advise the Smithsonian through the Secretary’s Youth Advisory Council, meeting again via videoconference from Fort Worth, Corning, Cincinnati, Dearborn and Greenville, 11.8.
Dr. Nancy Knowlton, senior scientist emerita from the Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute in Panama, will give a Science on Tap lecture to discuss the Ocean Optimism Initiative, at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, 11.14.
A new Smithsonian Spark!Lab, an immersive, interactive place for exploring invention, will open at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, 11.24.
In 46 states, Puerto Rico, and Panama, there are over 200 Smithsonian Affiliate organizations all working together to preserve our heritage, expand knowledge, and inspire learning.
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