The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has received a $5 million donation from SC Johnson in support of the renovation of the building’s 120,000-square-foot west exhibition wing. The updated wing will feature new exhibitions, program spaces and performance venues. SC Johnson’s funding will support the “American Enterprise” exhibition and the new state-of-the-art SC Johnson Conference Center, both scheduled to open in mid-2015.
The 8,000-square-foot multimedia American Enterprise exhibition focuses on the role of business and innovation in the US from the mid-1700s to the present and traces the country’s development from a small, agricultural-dependent nation to one of the world’s largest economies.
Located directly across from “American Enterprise,” the more than 3,300-square-foot SC Johnson Conference Center will serve as a venue for educational outreach where scholars, teachers and students will be able to engage in discussion of historical topics that have relevance today. The space will also serve as the setting for major museum activities.
“In today’s knowledge-rich environment, it is not enough for museums to present facts and our nation’s schools, libraries and museums are tasked to teach critical thinking skills,” said John Gray, director of the museum. “This generous gift from SC Johnson will allow the museum to lead this discussion and push it to new frontiers.”
“As a 127-year-old family company, SC Johnson is pleased to support the Smithsonian and its ‘American Enterprise’ exhibition because it celebrates the evolution of American business and its influence on our world today,” said Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. “My great-great grandfather started making wax products with a bathtub full of floor wax and with a commitment to innovation and a passion for opportunity. SC Johnson’s story symbolizes the theme of ‘American Enterprise’ and we’re proud of our role in American history and our part in this exhibition.”
The SC Johnson Conference Center will provide the museum with the ability to broadcast nationally and internationally and reach people around the world who are unable to visit the building on the National Mall. Museum educators and curators will have the opportunity to engage directly with students and teachers on virtual field trips, providing interactive and exciting educational experiences in their classrooms.
The SC Johnson Conference Center also will feature displays of historic objects and graphics, which will create a distinctive connection to American history for every event. With a capacity for more than 100 people in various configurations, it will serve as the setting for a variety of museum activities, including teacher workshops, graduate school classes, docent training sessions, scholarly colloquia and meetings of the museum’s board.