Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Smithsonian Working to Finalize Deal for New Site in London; Institution's First International Outpost Would Find Home at a Cultural Center Planned for City's Olympic Park

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Smithsonian Working to Finalize Deal for New Site in London; Institution's First International Outpost Would Find Home at a Cultural Center Planned for City's Olympic Park

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * As London works to redevelop its Olympic park from 2012 with a new cultural center, it could eventually include an import from the United States. The Smithsonian Institution is working to establish its first international museum outpost in Britain.

London's mayor and developers for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park site have secured $50 million in private contributions for the Smithsonian, the world's largest museum and research complex, to help anchor in a new "Olympicopolis" cultural center that would open in 2021.

A 40,000-square-foot Smithsonian gallery would feature permanent and rotating exhibits from Smithsonian sites including the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History and National Museum of Natural History and various art galleries.

British money first established the Smithsonian in 1846. English scientist James Smithson left a $500,000 bequest to establish an institution "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." While the Smithsonian has nearly 200 affiliate museums across the U.S. and its own 19 museums in Washington and New York, this would be the first time it has opened a museum venue beyond U.S. borders.

The Louvre, the British Museum and other major museums also have expanded globally, said John McCarter, chairman of the Smithsonian Board of Regents.

"This is an opportunity for the Smithsonian to move into a global context in the way some of our peer institutions ... have done," he said.

"So it's a great opportunity for us to get started and really to tell America's story."

London, he said, is an ideal location as a "multicultural tourist beacon of millions of people." The new cultural center would have train access to London and the rest of Britain and Europe. Already a shopping mall near the site draws millions of visitors, McCarter said. …

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