Jeff Bezos gives Smithsonian a record $200 million

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is donating $200 million to the Smithsonian Institution, the largest single donation since its founding gift from James Smithson in 1846, the museum announced Wednesday.

The Smithsonian said in a statement that $70 million of Bezos’ gift will be used to support the renovation of the National Air and Space Museum, and $130 million will be used to launch a Bezos Learning Center at the museum, in a new facility that will be built on the east side of the museum’s plaza.

Smithsonian said the new center will include programs and activities designed to encourage students to pursue innovation and explore STEM careers. It will also aid teachers in better utilizing the Smithsonian’s collections.

Some of Bezos’ donation will also be used to add new interactive experiences throughout the Smithsonian’s museums.

“Jeff’s early curiosity about space exploration helped inspire him to thinking and act boldly, and as a result he has played a defining role in the expansion of the Internet,” AOL founder Steve Case, who serves as chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, said in the statement.

Bezos has spent billions to advance space exploration, and he said in the statement that he hopes to ensure future generations build on today’s advances.

“The Smithsonian plays a vital role in igniting the imaginations of our future builders and dreamers,” Bezos said. “Every child is born with great potential, and it’s inspiration that unlocks that potential. My love affair with science, invention and space did that for me, and I hope this gift does that for others.”

The Air and Space Museum on the National Mall has been undergoing major renovations since 2018. It remains closed and is scheduled to reopen on July 30.

It is not Bezos’ first donation to the Smithsonian Institution. He was among the founding donors for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and has made previous contributions to the Air and Space Museum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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