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In an age of online crowdfunding for Veronica Mars films and expensive Uber rides alike, D.C. museums have expanded their fundraising tactics beyond the snail-mail solicitations of yore. Following the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s successful crowdfunding of a yoga-history exhibition in 2013, the Smithsonian launched a Kickstarter last week for the National Air and Space Museum to fund the restoration and display of Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk spacesuit. In less than five days, it topped its goal of $500,000.
Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which are familiar in form and concept to younger donors, offer a frictionless, transparent means of making and collecting donations. It’s easier to get potential donors excited about making a gift when there’s a goal in sight and perks involved—even if they’re just the promise of email updates and a logo decal.
But the spacesuit fundraiser has far surpassed any other local museum’s attempt to raise money online—in part, no doubt, because the Americans feel more ownership over the outfit that first touched the moon than any collection or exhibition of lesser-known art. At least one local museum has gotten high-profile assistance on its supposedly populist funding endeavor: For its yoga exhibit, the Sackler got help from Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria, a yoga instructor, and Whole Foods matched all donations, dollar for dollar, up to $70,000.
Without big-name supporters or sexy project goals, other museums’ crowdfunding bids have suffered the fate of failing in the public eye. Here, we line up their stats.
Project: The National Air and Space Museum’s restoration of Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit
Launched: July 20, 2015
Ends: Aug. 19, 2015
Goal: $500,000, reached on July 24, 2015
Raised so far: $561,000+
Donors so far: 7,300+
Project: “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” a temporary exhibit at the Sackler Gallery
Launched: May 29, 2013
Ended: July 8, 2013
Goal: $125,000, reached on on July 1, 2013
Final take: $176,000
Project: “According to What?”, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s exhibition of works from Ai Weiwei
Launched: April 2012
Ended: a few months later
Final take: $555
Project: The Phillips Collection’s permanent Wolfgang Laib installation, a room lined entirely in beeswax
Launched: Jan. 30, 2013
Ended: Feb. 28, 2013
Goal: $15,000, reached on Feb. 27, 2013
Final take: $16,185
Project: A microsite exploring the Phillips Collection’s “Migration Series” paintings by Jacob Lawrence
Launched: Nov. 10, 2014
Ended: Dec. 10, 2014
Final take: $2,988