Education Nation

Education Nation

A solutions-focused conversation about the state of education in America

Smithsonian American Art Museum to Open Education Center

Funded by a recent $8 million gift

By Sara Beladi
|  Monday, Apr 4, 2011  |  Updated 4:45 PM EDT
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Smithsonian American Art Museum to Open Education Center

Amanda Lucidon/For the Smithsonian

Young visitors play with light on a multitouch display featured in a past Smithsonian educational program.

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The Smithsonian American Art Museum announced this past week plans to open an education center that will allow students visiting the museum -- as well as those across the country and on military bases outside the U.S. -- to explore U.S. history and civics, with the aide of new technology and some of the nation's best artwork.

The new education center was made possible by a recent $8 million gift from a private donor. 

The 2,300 square-foot facility -- to be located on the first floor of the museum’s historic main building at Eighth and F streets NW -- will greatly expand the reach and scope of the museum’s national education program, according to museum officials.

“We hadn’t been planning for it,” said Lunder Education Chair Susan Nichols of the newly endowed project, “but we had been hoping for it.” 

The center will feature a state-of-the-art video conferencing system and will function as a space for tour discussions, graduate seminars, and teaching workshops such as The Claris Smith National Teacher Institute, which currently meets in a multi-purpose room. 

“It has been a long-standing dream to have a space dedicated to the museum’s education program in our museum as a visible symbol of our commitment to education and a much needed flexible learning space,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in a press release.  “The museum presents its extraordinary collection of American art as a basis for learning at all levels, using original artworks to teach about the American experience."

Plans for the education center are currently in their infancy, and the museum would not immediately disclose when the construction of the facility will commence; they did, however, say that it is scheduled for completion in mid-2012.

A portion of the $8 million gift will be used to fund an endowment that will create new American history and civics resources for students and teachers "based on the best artworks in the museum's collection."  A teacher advisory committee will join a team of museum staff in developing the initiative and working to link it to state and national standards.  

Several of the education programs offered by the Smithsonian American Art Museum -- as well as other Smithsonian entities -- have focused on D.C. area schools.  It also boasts a robust distance- learning program, which the museum hopes to enhance with the new video-conferencing system, in addition to other resources that the center will make available.  

The donors of the $8 million gift have chosen to remain anonymous.

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