Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will donate $ 200 million to the Smithsonian Institution to renovate the National Air and Space Museum and open a new educational center next door.
Bezos’ massive donation, announced Wednesday night, will be the largest gift the Smithsonian has received since the initial sum that led to its founding nearly 200 years ago.
Seventy million dollars will go towards updating the Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, with the remainder of the sum going to be spent on the new “Bezos Learning Center,” the Smithsonian said.
The Smithsonian plays a vital role in igniting the imaginations of our future builders and dreamers, ”said Bezos, the world’s richest person, in a statement issued by the Smithsonian. “All children are born with great potential and it is inspiration that unlocks that potential. My love affair with science, invention, and space did that for me, and I hope this gift does it for others.
In the 1820s, James Smithson, an English scientist, bequeathed his estate “to found in Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”
More than $ 500,000 in gold belonging to Smithson was turned over to the United States government after his death in 1829 and the Smithsonian was soon established. The construction of its first museum was completed in 1881.
“Today as we emerge from a pivotal moment in history, Jeff’s gift builds on that original tradition and will help us reimagine and transform the Smithsonian,” said Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch.
“This historic gift will help the Smithsonian achieve its goal of reaching every classroom in America by creating a world-class learning center with access and inspiration at its heart,” added Mr. Bunch. “We are grateful to Jeff for his generosity and for his passion and commitment to education, innovation and technology. This donation will feed our nation’s future leaders and innovators.
The Air and Space Museum was established in 1946 and opened its current building on the Mall in 1976. The historic aircraft and spacecraft from its collection are on display there and in an annex in Virginia.
The Smithsonian said the “Bezos Center” will be located in a new facility to be built on the east side of the museum plaza on the Mall and will feature programs and activities geared toward students.
Before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Air and Space Museum was among the most popular of the 21 different facilities currently operated by the Smithsonian, according to its website.
In 2019, for example, the Smithsonian said its museums were visited a total of 22.1 million times. That includes about 3.2 million visits recorded by the Air and Space Museum and 1.3 million by the annex.
Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in 1994 and served as CEO of the online retail giant until this month. Forbes has called him the “richest man in modern history.” It is reportedly worth about $ 200 billion.