National Air and Space Museum Receives $5 Million Gift For Wright Exhibit

Mon, Mar 29, 2021

David M. Rubenstein Funds New Wright Brothers Gallery Anticipated To Open in 2022

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has received $5 million from David M. Rubenstein in support of the newly redesigned “The Wright Brothers & the Invention of the Aerial Age” exhibition.

The gift will contribute to the safe preservation and display of the 1903 Wright Flyer, one of the Smithsonian’s iconic artifacts and the centerpiece of the gallery. The redesign of the exhibition is part of the museum’s ongoing transformation of all its galleries in the flagship building in Washington, D.C., and is scheduled to open in 2022.

“David’s support demonstrates his continued generosity and commitment to the Smithsonian and American history,” said Chris Browne, acting director of the National Air and Space Museum. “His gift will help ensure this one-of-a-kind object that represents the heights of American ingenuity is available to visitors for generations to come.”

In the newly redesigned gallery, visitors will experience the Wright Flyer from only a few feet away. In response to audience research that showed many visitors did not realize the aircraft on display was the actual 1903 Flyer and the first plane to fly, new in-gallery interpretation will highlight this unique fact. The gallery will feature artifacts from the brothers’ youth and help visitors to better understand what enabled Wilbur and Orville to achieve one of the transformational accomplishments in history.

The exhibition will also provide an effective platform to educate on STEM concepts that are a central part of the Wright brothers’ story, like problem-solving, engineering and iteration. Through digital and mechanical interactives, visitors will discover new ways of learning the basic techniques the Wrights pioneered and are still used today.

“The Wright Flyer represents a pivotal step in the creation of our modern world and humanity’s need to achieve and explore,” said Peter Jakab, senior curator at the museum. “The Wright brothers and their airplane resonate with how we live today, which makes their story timeless and endlessly fascinating.”

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