WASHINGTON, D.C.-The Smithsonian Institution reports it will reopen the Arts and Industries Building on the National Mall by the summer of next year.
The A&I Building, which opened in 1881 as the U.S. National Museum, closed in January 2004 to undergo a structural review and extensive renovation, Smithsonian officials state. Current work on the building includes installation of more than 800 new custom windows that re-create the appearance of the original ones, reinforcement and replacement of some original iron trusses with steel, repair of the brick facade and replacement of the 2.5-acre roof. This phase of renovation, which is scheduled to be completed by this fall, was paid for with federal funds. An Associated Press report states that the U.S. Patent and Trade Office will provide up to $7.5 million for the A&I Building project.
In connection with the project, the Smithsonian and the U.S. Patent and Trade Office announced a seven-year collaboration to develop programs and exhibitions at the A&I building that is located between the Castle and the Hirshhorn Museum.
The collaboration will begin with an Innovation Expo on June 20-22 at the Patent and Trademark Office’s headquarters in Alexandria, VA where the latest technological developments—patented technologies from American companies—will be showcased. The three-day expo will feature a narrative about how the U.S. patent system promotes innovation and technological development. The Innovation Expo will serve as a template for future expos to be held in the Innovation Pavilion at the A&I Building (the pavilion will cover around 18,000 sf of the 40,000 sf of public space in the building).
During 2013, the Smithsonian will also develop further designs for the new Innovation Pavilion and begin work on plans for exhibitions and programming. The interior space will not be completely finished in 2014 because the permanent use of the building is uncertain. Plans for A&I between 2014 and 2021 are considered temporary as the Smithsonian awaits final disposition of the proposed National Museum of the American Latino, whose commission has recommended A&I as a possible location of the new museum, Smithsonian officials say.
“The Arts and Industries Building has always been about celebrating innovation and progress, and it has been one of my goals to reopen the building and return it to that purpose,” said Wayne Clough, Smithsonian Secretary. “Through this collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, we will create a program that not only celebrates American ingenuity but also reflects the 21st century expectations of our visitors.”