Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum gets $30 million from Boeing

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum — one of Washington's most reliable tourist attractions — is receiving a $30-million gift from Boeing and will use the money to renovate its main exhibition space that serves as home to such icons of aviation as the Wright Brothers' airplane and Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis.

Officials at the Smithsonian made the announcement Thursday, saying that the renovation is expected to be completed in 2016, the museum's 40th anniversary. They said Boeing has made numerous monetary gifts to the Smithsonian during the years, totaling more than $64 million, with $58 million to the National Air and Space Museum.

The museum's main hall — called "Milestones of Flight" — receives more than 310 million visitors each year, according to the Smithsonian. The renovated space will be renamed the "Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall."

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The hall also features Friendship 7, the Mercury space capsule piloted by astronaut John Glenn, as well as a moon rock that visitors can touch.   

Smithsonian officials said the expanded hall will trace the interconnected stories of the world's most significant aircraft and spacecraft and will feature digital displays and a mobile experience. The renovated space is expected to stretch from one side of the museum to the other.

Boeing's $30 million gift to the museum is sizable but not a record. In 2011, billionaire Jorge Perez donated $40 million to the Miami Art Museum, which renamed itself after him. 

Other recent big-ticket gifts include Oprah Winfrey's $12-million donation to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, expected to open in late 2015.


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