The Smithsonian Institution has announced a $7.5 million gift from philanthropist Phyllis Taylor and the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation in support of educational outreach and a new learning space at the National Museum of American History.
The gift will fund the creation of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project in the museum's renovated west wing. Scheduled to open in July 2015, the 4,000-square-foot space will feature approximately two hundred and fifty "things that changed everything" and will enable visitors to learn how technologies such as bicycles, electric refrigerators, and ready-to-wear clothing helped drive changes in society and influenced American life.
A few dozen objects will be chosen by Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz of the History channel’s television show American Pickers, while visitors will be encouraged to touch and handle familiar objects displayed in open cases. In addition, a portion of the gift will fund an endowment to serve K–12 student and teacher outreach and programming.
Patrick F. Taylor, founder of New Orleans-based Taylor Energy Co., was responsible for Louisiana's so-called Taylor Plan, legislation that provides state-paid tuition to students who qualify, enabling them to attend in-state institutions of higher education regardless of financial cost. Following his death in 2004, Taylor's wife, Phyllis M. Taylor, became CEO of both Taylor Energy and the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation.
"The Taylor Foundation's generous gift will allow visitors to learn about the history of innovation and help them find connections between innovative ideas and society's needs," said Judy Gradwohl, the museum's MacMillan Associate Director for Education and Public Engagement. "Many familiar objects were innovations that changed everyday life in the past and helped shape American life today. Object Project will put history into the hands of our visitors."