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Beginning late this summer, the National Air and Space Museum, one of the 19 world-class Smithsonian museums located on the National Mall in Washington DC, will undergo its first renovation in the building’s 41-year history. What’s more, nine major airlines are donating $28 million as a gift towards the renovations.

News of the 2018 revitalization comes off the heels of the announcement of the rare joint venture between the competing airlines. The $28 million will go towards the “America by Air” gallery. American Airlines, The Delta Air Lines Foundation and United Airlines contributed as lead donors while Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Frontier, Hawaiian and Spirit have also contributed to the project. Southwest also contributed a gift last year and the welcome center in the “Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall” will be designated the “Southwest Airlines Welcome Center” once the renovations are complete.

“The generous contribution by the airlines not only signals their commitment to the storied history of air travel, but to inspiring young people to pursue careers in aviation and engineering,” said Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey, the director of the National Air and Space Museum in a press release. “These gifts help launch the museum on a trajectory to realizing the transformation of this important place.”

“America by Air” is one of the three main halls at the National Air and Space Museum; the gallery follows the history of commercial aviation in the US with anything from large aircrafts to airline uniforms on display. Highlights of the exhibit include a Douglas DC-3, the nose of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet that visitors can enter, a Ford 5-AT Tri-Motor and a Douglas DC-7.

The museum hopes to raise $250 million through private donations to fund future galleries. All 23 galleries and exhibition spaces in the museum will be transformed with the money raised and the project is slated to take seven years to complete. Donations will also go towards completely re-facing the exterior stone, replacement of outdated mechanical systems and other improvements supported by federal funding.

The museum will remain open during the project by dividing construction into two major phases with construction beginning this summer; the “America by Air” exhibit will be closed during renovations, however, but is expected to re-open by 2021. The contributions by the airlines will be recognized in the entrance of the new exhibit, which will feature a fresh layout with new design and graphics, an interactive experience and more accessibility throughout. John Plueger, chairman of the museum’s board, noted the rare opportunity to revamp the museum.

“This rare collaborative effort within the competitive industry of commercial aviation shows how important it is to inspire the next generation and the airline industry’s commitment toward that effort,” he said.

Images courtesy of National Air and Space Museum 

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