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Seattle’s Gates Foundation Funds Smithsonian Youth Endowment

The Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave a $50 million gift to the Smithsonian Institution this week, $30 million of which will be used to create the Youth Access Endowment. Through the endowment, the institution will reach out to youth who have few opportunities to visit the Smithsonian, America's national educational facility with 19 museums, 9 research centers and over 140 affiliate museums around the world.

A museum official said in The Washington Post this week that the primary goal of the endowment is to allow students in states where school funding is lacking to access Smithsonian museums and other facilities. Through the program, Smithsonian experts will help develop educational materials for school systems that can be accessed in print or online. The organization's web site – which provides teacher materials, learning tools for various grades and online conferences – got 136 million hits in the first nine months of 2010.

A portion of the Gates donation will be used to support four specific themes that will that will be the focus of Smithsonian research and exhibits in coming years, including: understanding the American experience, valuing world cultures, sustaining a biodiverse planet and opening up understanding of the broader universe.

The remaining $10 million of the full $50 million Gates gift will support the construction and design phase of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, slated to open on the Mall in 2015.


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