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December 02, 2015

Smithsonian Museum Launches Program on U.S. Philanthropy

The Smithsonian's Museum of American History announced an effort Tuesday to collect, research, and display artifacts documenting the history and legacy of American philanthropy, the Associated Press writes. The "Giving in America" effort will explore ways in which donating time and money have become woven into American life, from volunteer firefighters and church collection plates to billionaires publicly pledging at least half of their fortunes to charity.

The museum plans to open a long-term exhibition on U.S. giving in November 2016. The Smithsonian's Philanthropy Initiative will also encompass an annual symposium and an endowed curatorial post. The program is being funded with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a gift from Washington donor David M. Rubenstein, both of which declined to disclose the size of their contributions.

David Allison, the history museum's associate director for curatorial affairs, said the effort grew out of the institution exploring the history of American business for its new innovation wing. "The role of philanthropy kept coming up," he said. "It made us think that we should do more on that topic."