The Smithsonian's Partnership with Kickstarter

Frequently Asked Questions
July 20, 2015
Media Fact Sheet
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Why is the Smithsonian partnering with Kickstarter?

The Smithsonian launched its first Institution-wide fundraising campaign in 2014 with a goal of $1.5 billion. One of the campaign goals is to “Reach People Everywhere.” Kickstarter has a community of 9 million people who have helped fund 88,000 creative projects. Crowdfunding on Kickstarter offers a much wider audience the chance to bring to life uniquely Smithsonian projects. Each Kickstarter project will allow the public to be part of the process, from fundraising through the completion of the work, regardless of their level of support. All backers will receive regular updates on the progress and can follow along each step of the way.

Why not use federal appropriations to pay for these projects?

Federal appropriations provide the financial foundation of the Smithsonian’s operating budget and will always remain the core of its funding. This funding covers 64 percent of the Institution’s annual operating costs. In addition, the Smithsonian is supported by philanthropy from individuals, foundations and corporations, which is used to create new exhibitions, conduct research and offer innovative public programs.

Will every Smithsonian museum and unit launch a campaign?

This is a 12-month pilot partnership for the Smithsonian in which the hope is to learn a great deal about crowdfunding, the audiences that the Institution can connect with through it and whether it can sustain this as a new fundraising channel. During this year, the plan is to launch three to four projects. Each project might feature one or more museums or units, but not all of the 19 museums, nine research centers, zoo and multiple programs will be represented in this pilot year.

How are projects selected for a Kickstarter campaign?

Ideas for crowdfunding are generated all the time at the Smithsonian. For the three or four projects for the pilot-year partnership with Kickstarter, Smithsonian museums, research centers and programs submit ideas for projects to a central working group. Ideas are evaluated based on factors such as their suitability for crowdfunding and the urgency of the need.


National Air and Space Museum Project

Why does the conservation of Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit take three years?

The conservation process will take approximately three years because this project not only includes research and work on the suit but also incorporates imaging techniques and the construction of the mannequin support and exhibition case. The written documentation that NASA produced during the Apollo program does not provide details for each individual spacesuit, therefore a primary part of the conservation process is to document every inch of the suit and create a historical archive that will be preserved and available in the future for researchers to access the suit digitally. 

What is included in the budget for the conservation of the spacesuit?

The costs associated with this project include:

  • Research needed to inform conservation decisions
  • Materials and tools for conservation work
  • Construction of a custom-built mannequin to support the suit
  • State-of-the-art, climate-controlled display case
  • 3-D scanning of the spacesuit, helmet and gloves and the production of an online 3-D model
  • A webcast educational program, STEM in 30
  • Publication on the suit, history and conservation of spacesuit materials

What will happen to the spacesuit if the Kickstarter campaign goal is not met?

If the funding goal is not met, the suit will, of course, remain safe in its present condition. Funding will still need to be found to conserve it, and it will not be conserved and displayed in time for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

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Linda St. Thomas


Alison Wood