Air and Space Museum gets big donation for big changes

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A big donation to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will bring big changes for visitors in the future.

Top aerospace company and commercial jetliners and military aircraft manufacturer Boeing has donated $30 million to the museum. It's the largest corporate donation ever, according to museum staff. It's not the first time the company has donated to the museum: According to officials, Boeing has given $58 million in total just to the Air and Space Museum over the years.

Boeing representative Steven Lott says the company's mission of "honoring the past and investing in the future" meshes well with the museum's own educational and inspirational goals. Simply put, a visit to the museum might inspire youth to entertain future careers in aerospace or flight, which might bring them into the Boeing workforce.

The museum's Chief Curator Dr. Peter Jakab expressed nothing but gratitude for the donation, saying to Lott, "you have no idea what you have done for the staff of the museum." As Jakab went on to explain, the big donation will allow staff to revamp the Milestones of Flight gallery at the National Mall Museum that has greeted visitors as soon as they come through the front doors since 1976.


VIDEO: See how museum revealed donation, exhibit revamp to reporters (

According to museum officials, the new Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall will "deepen the experience with richer description and interpretation of the iconic artifacts on display." The donation will fund more digital and mobile opportunities to share and interact with the content -- think: media wall -- and help link artifacts from the National Mall site with the artifacts at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center site.

VIDEO: Curator speaks about the future (

Among the notable additions to the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall will be the Apollo Lunar Module, the Telstar satellite and the Star Trek Starship Enterprise model. Obviously, the latter is drawn from fiction but, as curator Dr. Margaret Weitekamp explained, the museum tries to feature pieces that reflect historical, cultural, social, political impacts in flight or space travel to appeal to a broader audience. The changes to the gallery will continue to keep this focus in mind, says Weitekamp.

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM THE NEW MILESTONES: Milestones of Flight Info from curator.pdf

Many changes will occur in the next decade to give the hall a more "21st century" feel, according to Museum Director John Dailey. The new gallery is expected to be complete in July 2016, in time for the museum's 40th anniversary and Boeing's 100th anniversary. Incremental changes will occur, requiring some pieces to be relocated to other parts of the museum or to Udvar-Hazy as portions of the gallery are revitalized, said Dailey. Museum staff intend to expand the exhibition outwards and upwards to fill the two-story space.

VIDEO: Museum director on donation, exhibit (

PHOTOS: The future of the National Air and Space Museum's Milestones of Flight (

At no time will the gallery be completely closed, according to Dailey.

Officials say since the National Mall location's opening more than 310 million people have visited the Milestones exhibition. They hope to bring more visitors into the building for years to come.


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