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Smithsonian going global

The proposed Olympicopolis site is in front of the London Aquatics Centre and a few hundred yards from the former Olympic Stadium. Source: BBC News.

Jane O’Brien, Smithsonian considers London outpost in Olympic Park, BBC News, 27 January 2015

The world’s largest museum and research institution could be heading to London as part of a multi-million dollar refit of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The Smithsonian in Washington, DC, has been asked to open an exhibition space on the 4.5 acre site showing treasures from its 19 museums and art galleries.

Its 137 million artefacts include some iconic objects, like Dorothy’s ruby red slippers in the Wizard of Oz.

The focus in London would be America’s history and contributions to science.

John McCarter, chairman of the Board of Regents, the Smithsonian’s governing body, revealed as much, although he says no details have been finalised.

“This is an opportunity for the Smithsonian to move into a global context and to tell America’s story,” he says.

The new London cultural centre will be named Olympicopolis and $50m (£33m) in UK funding has so far been secured to build the facility. Annual operating costs are expected to run between $5m and $7m but would be funded by sales, private donations and admission to temporary exhibits.

The Smithsonian would join several major British institutions planning outposts at the Olympic Park, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, University of the Arts London and the Sadler’s Wells ballet company. The University College of London is also planning to open a new campus on the site.

“These are wonderful institutions, and we want to be a positive addition to them,” says Mr McCarter. “We have objects that are unique to the Smithsonian and to the United States that can add to and enhance the cultural tourism and scholarly capability of London. We do this with great respect.”

And with 95% of the Smithsonian’s holdings in storage, he said there would be plenty of objects to choose from.

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