The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum received a $6 million pledge from Anne and Travis Engen to support preservation and conservation of the museum’s collection.
This contribution will establish a permanent endowment for a Chair in Conservation and a post-graduate fellowship program that will enable the museum to expand and enhance its conservation efforts. The Engens’ gift is made as part of the Smithsonian Campaign, which launched publicly Oct. 20.
“We are grateful to Anne and Travis Engen for this generous contribution,” said Museum Director Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey. “It ensures the treasures in our world-class collection will be preserved for generations to come.”
The magnitude and scope of the National Air and Space Museum’s collection presents preservation challenges unlike many other collecting institutions. While the museum is well known for its aircraft and spacecraft, the range of the collection extends to artwork, spacesuits, engines, medals, trophies, instruments, models, uniforms and more. This requires staff expertise in areas related to these materials in addition to modern objects, metals and organic materials.
The Engens’ gift will be used to establish a permanent endowment to create the “Engen Conservation Chair.” The position will be filled by a conservator who can develop advanced techniques to complement the work currently being done by the museum’s conservation unit.
It will also establish Postgraduate Conservation Fellowships—“Engen Fellows”—who will receive advanced experience by collaborating with staff restorers, curators, scientists and other conservators to examine and treat artifacts in the collection. The expertise obtained from the new positions will help the museum maintain its position as a model for other institutions in the conservation of aerospace artifacts and modern materials.
The Engen family’s association with the National Air and Space Museum began in 1996 when retired Rear Adm. Donald D. Engen became its director. When he died in 1999, Engen was planning the museum’s second location, to be named the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which opened in 2003. Following his death, his wife Mary Baker Engen, a member of the museum’s board, continued to advocate for the expansion.
In 2008, Travis and Anne Engen, their son and daughter-in-law, contributed $15 million to support Phase Two of the Udvar-Hazy Center, dedicated to the museum’s collections. In recognition of the Engen’s gift, the Smithsonian established the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar.
Travis Engen is the retired president and CEO of Alcan Inc., a global aluminum, aluminum-recycling and packaging company now a part of Rio Tinto. With this new pledge, Travis and Anne Engen’s combined contributions to the museum amount to $23 million.
The $1.5 billion Smithsonian Campaign, the largest fundraising campaign in history for a cultural institution, has raised more than $1 billion dollars since it began in 2010 through gifts from individuals, foundations, corporations and other donors. Since its founding in 1846, public and private funding have supported the Smithsonian. Its benefactor, English scientist James Smithson, named the Smithsonian Institution as the recipient of his fortune, beginning the long tradition of philanthropy. The campaign’s honorary committee is chaired by President and Mrs. George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and it includes 17 distinguished Americans. The campaign’s four themes focus on the Smithsonian’s contributions in the fields of science, history, art and culture.
The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. Attendance at both buildings combined exceeded 8 million in 2013, making it the most visited museum in America. The museum’s research, collections, exhibitions and programs focus on aeronautical history, space history and planetary studies. Both buildings are open from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25).