October 21, 2014 / 6:30 PM / 4 years ago

Washington's Smithsonian launches $1.5 billion fundraising campaign

A 3D plastic scan of the skull of a sixty-six million year old Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton is seen at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington April 15, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Smithsonian Institution, the world’s biggest museum and research complex, publicly launched a $1.5 billion fundraising campaign this week, the largest in history for any cultural institution.

The effort marks the first organization-wide fundraising campaign for the Washington-based institution, which includes 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities, the Smithsonian said in a statement on Monday.

It said that more than $1 billion, or two-thirds of its overall goal, had already been raised during a “quiet phase” that began in October 2011. Notable donors include American businessman David Koch, media personality Oprah Winfrey and Boeing Co. The campaign will continue through 2017.

“The private support the Smithsonian Campaign raises will add new chapters to America’s story, revolutionize learning and advance scientific research in ways that benefit all the generations that follow,” said Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough.

The campaign will focus on the Smithsonian’s contributions in history, science, art and culture, according to the statement. Donations will be invested in educational programs, exhibitions and “attracting and retaining the best minds” according to the website for the Smithsonian campaign.

The Smithsonian was established in 1846 through a bequest by a wealthy English businessman.

Its sites, which generally charge no admission, received about 30 million visits last year, a spokeswoman said.

About two-thirds of the institution’s annual budget is covered by federal government funding, according to its website.

Reporting by Lacey Johnson; Editing by Ian Simpson and Eric Walsh

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