During the summer, the Smithsonian Institute compartmentalize a significant new series of four Grand Challenges chosen to be the focus of its new scientific objectives, valuing world cultures, and to define what the American experience is through the Smithsonian’s educational programs during the coming decade.
Last fall, The Smithsonian Institution received a very generous donation of $50 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on November 10, 2010; these programs created from three grants at this time are being successfully launched from 2011 to 2015.
The money is earmarked to support three different programs: $30 million for broadening access to the Institution through a Youth Access Endowment then marked another $10 million for the four consortia identified in the Smithsonian’s Strategic Plan, and the last $10 million for the completion of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Therefore, Secretary Wayne Clough has selected four exemplary Smithsonian scholars to serve as directors of the consortia described in the Institution’s strategic plan, “Inspiring Generations through Knowledge and Discovery.”
All of the chosen scholars from various fields selected to be directors for the consortia all currently hold positions within the Smithsonian Institute:
- Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe—Christine Jones Forman, senior astrophysicist, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
- Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet—John Kress, curator and botanist, National Museum of Natural History
- Understanding the American Experience—Michelle Delaney, curator, National Museum of American History
- Valuing World Cultures—Robert Leopold, director, National Anthropological Archives at the National Museum of Natural History
The plan outlines the broad areas of concentration for the Smithsonian: mysteries of the universe, biodiversity, the American experience and valuing world cultures. Following a yearlong strategic planning process, the Smithsonian Institution is “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
The Institution is about 65 percent federally funded. In addition, the Smithsonian has trust funds, which include both contributions from private sources (corporations, foundations and individuals) and revenues from Smithsonian Enterprises (stores, restaurants, IMAX theaters, gift catalog, etc.).