Just a few days after announcing its partnership with Kickstarter, The Smithsonian Institution received some supporters from a non-crowdfunding backer, D.C. congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Norton introduced her bill to strengthen both the Smithsonian’s governance and fundraising capacity, marking the first significant change to the institution since it was established in 1846. She revealed that her bill is particularly timely given that the Smithsonian launched a crowdfunding campaign on July 19 to raise $500,000 to preserve and display Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit.
Norton also explained that America’s finest cultural institution should not have to rely on targeted online crowdfunding campaigns to display its world-class artifacts. Instead, the Smithsonian should have a governance structure that facilitates much larger fundraising efforts to build a solid endowment.
Norton’s bill makes changes to the Smithsonian’s governance structure by expanding and changing the current 17-member composition of its Board of Regents, which includes public officials—six Members of Congress, the Vice President of the United States, and the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and nine private citizens. Norton’s bill brings the board to 21 members, comprised solely of private citizens. Unlike officials such as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, private citizens are more fully able to reach out to the public and philanthropists for fundraising.
The bill would, however, preserve and strengthen the traditional role of the Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, and President of the United States in selecting members of the Board. Norton declared:
“The Smithsonian Institution, with its world-class museums art galleries, research facilities, educational showplaces, and the National Zoo, needs a board equal to the task of raising far more funds to help support this unique institution. Federal funds cannot cover all the Smithsonian’s unique expenses, as the search for funding Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit points out.”
See the entire bill introduction here.
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