The Give and Take of Museum Donations

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  • Article discusses the Smithsonian Institution's efforts to raise monetary donations and secure gifts to supplement the $466 million in operating expenses it receives from the Federal Government. Since the Federal funds are restricted to taking care of what it already has, the Smithsonian has always relied on gifts from individual benefactors to have money for acquisitions, but it has also become increasingly dependent on deals and ventures made with multinational corporations. Smithsonian Secretary I. Michael Heyman and other officials have developed guidelines for negotiating ground rules with a private or corporate donor to arrive at an agreement which will encourage the making of contributions, but inhibit a sponsor's desire to place its own spin on a donation, while allowing the Smithsonian to have control over its exhibitions.
  • A delicate balance must be struck between a donor's desire to enjoy the prestige from its Smithsonian connection, and the Smithsonian's handling and acknowledgement of donor contributions. The author cites examples of gifts which have been made, such as the Exxon Corporation's project with tiger educational projects at the National Zoo, and discusses a venture with Discover, which distributes a credit card with an imprint of the Smithsonian Castle.


  • Heyman, Ira Michael 5/30/1930-11/19/2011
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Nine photographs accompany the article.

Contained within

The Washington Post (Newspaper)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


August 8, 1998


  • Charitable contributions
  • Museum finance
  • Smithsonian influence
  • Corporations
  • Education
  • Secretaries
  • Exhibitions
  • Gifts
  • Museums
  • Federal Government
  • Federal Government, Relations with SI
  • Corporations--Charitable contributions
  • Museums--Educational aspects

Physical description

Style section, pages C1-C2

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