Boeing Donates $5 Million to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture

April 23, 2008
News Release

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The Boeing Company is contributing $5 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., to support the design and construction of the museum. The Smithsonian's 19th museum will be the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture.

Boeing is the largest donor to date for the museum, which was established in December 2003 when President George W. Bush signed legislation establishing the museum as part of the Smithsonian Institution. It will be built on the National Mall at Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets N.W. The museum is scheduled to open in 2015 at a cost of approximately $500 million. Boeing leaders joined Rep. Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.); Cristián Samper, Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian; and Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the museum, in making the announcement today.

"As an early donor to the museum, Boeing will fund efforts to bring together representatives from existing African American history museums and community leaders throughout the country to share ideas about what this new museum will represent and what it will contain," said Tod Hullin, Boeing's senior vice president, Public Policy.

The museum opened its inaugural exhibition last fall at the International Center of Photography in New York in a unique collaboration with that museum and the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, from whose collection the exhibition images were drawn. That exhibition, "Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Photographs," has since traveled to Washington and is currently on view at the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans through June 2. A traveling version of the exhibition will be seen in nine cities, including Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Boston; Detroit; and Los Angeles.

Through a national collections and preservation initiative known as "Save Our African American Treasures," the museum is working with other organizations across the country, most recently with the Chicago Public Library, to offer workshops designed to teach people to identify and preserve historically significant items and ultimately, to help museums across the country secure items for exhibitions and collections.

"We are grateful to Boeing for its support of our commitment to educate, engage and motivate people—all people—to pay attention to this nation and to the unique role African Americans played in its growth," said Bunch. "Having the Boeing Company join us so early in the development of this museum helps bolster our belief that the work of this museum is too important to wait until the museum is built. With Boeing as a member of our institutional family, we are poised to move forward with work already started in the areas of building collections, building audiences and indeed, building a museum."

A key feature during Wednesday's announcement of the Boeing gift was the first showing of items recently acquired by the museum for its collections. The display included a work by celebrated African American artist Jacob Lawrence, the Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medal and a rare, white Pullman Porter's hat worn only by the more experienced porters who served prominent travelers.

In an important phase of predesign research on the building, the museum is holding a series of meetings and focus groups across the country, encouraging participants to share ideas on what the museum should offer in areas ranging from programming to exhibitions.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. The Smithsonian Board of Regents, the governing body of the Institution, voted in January 2006 to build the museum on a five-acre site in the nation's capital on the National Mall. The Constitution Avenue site is adjacent to the Washington Monument and across the street from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Construction is expected to be completed in 2015.

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