Air and Space Museum Nabs Smithsonian’s Largest Corporate Gift

Boeing's $30 million gift to the National Air and Space Museum is the largest corporate donation the Smithsonian Institution has ever received. The donation will be used to overhaul the main exhibition hall, which will now be called the “Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.” Not a bad deal for either party.

The gift from Boeing's sizable corporate giving program was much needed, as the exhibit hall at the air and space museum hasn’t been updated significantly since it opened in 1976. The $30 million will go to a complete modernization of the main hall, which will be renamed after the aeronautics corporation. The National Air and Space Museum is the most visited museum in the country, with more than 300 million visitors since it opened, according to the museum—meaning Boeing will get some incredible exposure out of the arrangement.  

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest such complex of museums and research centers administered by the U.S. government. Admission to the museums is free, and the annual budget of around $775 million is about 65 percent federally funded. This latest donation brings the total amount Boeing has donated to the National Air and Space Museum up to $60 million. 

The relevance of the museum to Boeing’s corporate mission and philanthropy is twofold, since it promotes not only breakthroughs in flight but also promotes STEM education. The gift will in part bolster the museum's educational programming. The corporation has a corporate responsibility program that focuses on education, with an emphasis on science and tech. 

The company supports professional development for teachers and school administrators, as well as program and curriculum support for STEM education in schools. Some recent beneficiaries include the National Math and Science Initiative, the FIRST Robotics Competition, and Iridescent Learning.

In 2013, Boeing’s charitable giving (including employee giving) totaled $176 million. Aside from education, the company supports work in arts and culture, the environment, health and human services, and civic engagement. Learn more about Boeing’s philanthropy and how to apply for a grant here, and read its 2013 annual report here (pdf).