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The Smithsonian today announced plans to raise $1.5 billion in its first organization-wide fundraising campaign, the largest in history for a cultural institution.
The early or “quiet” phase of the campaign began in October 2010; the campaign will continue through 2017. The Smithsonian has raised more than $1 billion, or two-thirds of its overall goal, through gifts from individuals, foundations, corporations and other donors.
The campaign’s four themes focus on the Smithsonian’s contributions in the fields of history, science, art and culture—Spark Discovery, Tell America’s Story, Inspire Lifelong Learning and Reach People Everywhere. These messages were chosen by the campaign to highlight the Smithsonian’s strengths and address issues relevant in today’s world.
Three well-known philanthropists serve as co-chairs of the Smithsonian Campaign’s steering committee and leaders of the fundraising effort: David Rubenstein, member of the Board of Regents and donor to many Smithsonian museums, such as the National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Zoo; Barbara Barrett, a Regent and major contributor to the science education center in the National Museum of Natural History; and Alan Spoon, Regent Emeritus and donor to Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, research fellowships and broadening access to Smithsonian collections. The campaign’s honorary committee, chaired by President and Mrs. George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State and Sen. Hillary Clinton, includes 17 other distinguished Americans.
Since its founding in 1846, the Smithsonian has been supported by public and private funding. Its benefactor, English scientist James Smithson, named the Smithsonian Institution as the recipient of his fortune, beginning the long tradition of philanthropy.
“The level of excellence expressed in the Smithsonian’s strategic plan can be achieved only with a significant infusion of philanthropic capital,” said Rubenstein. “The Smithsonian Campaign is providing this, funding the plan’s vision and the big ideas in it—ideas that are transforming the Smithsonian’s future.”
“The private support the Smithsonian Campaign raises will add new chapters to America’s story, revolutionize learning and advance scientific research in ways that benefit all the generations that follow,” said Secretary Wayne Clough, who has led the campaign during its three-year quiet phase. Clough will retire from the Smithsonian at the end of the year.
“Campaign gifts invest in attracting and retaining the best minds, building spaces and exhibits and advancing education,” said Spoon. “This includes people who create today and will lead tomorrow, places that are our public face and inspire and delight, programs that excite the imagination and connect to people everywhere and treasures that preserve our natural and cultural heritage and inform our research.”
Hundreds of donors have been recognized for their contributions during the quiet phase of the campaign, including David H. Koch for a gift that funds the renovation of the dinosaur hall at the National Museum of Natural History; Suzanne and Michael Tennenbaum for supporting Smithsonian research in marine biodiversity; the Morton and Barbara Mandel Family Foundation for the renovation of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Oprah Winfrey for her gift to the National Museum of African American History and Culture; Boeing’s gift to the National Air and Space Museum for the Milestones of Flight gallery and educational programs; Dame Jillian Sackler for endowing the position of museum director at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; Roger and Vicki Sant for endowing the director of the National Museum of Natural History position; and the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation contribution to educational programs at the National Museum of American History.
The Smithsonian Campaign goals are to create new endowed positions, especially for museum directors; represent all 50 states in its donor base; bring new donors to the Smithsonian; and continue relationships with long-time donors.
“This campaign will ensure the Smithsonian has the power to change and the permanence to endure,” said Barrett. “A gift to the Smithsonian is a gift to the nation, the world and the future.”
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Linda St. Thomas