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DALLAS-It’s not just any Friday in Dallas, it’s opening day for a $30-million, 70,000-sf museum celebrating women and their contributions. Doors open to the public at 10 a.m. today at the Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future, located in a historic 1910 structure in Dallas’ Fair Park. The lead design architect for the structure–twice on National Trust’s Ten Most Endangered Buildings List–includes Wendy Evans Joseph, senior designer for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. An estimated 500,000 visitors per year are expected to tour the facility.

A pipe dream four years ago is reality today, a project that was jump started with a $10-million lead pledge from the SBC Foundation, the philanthropic entity of SBC Communications. The donation marks the largest corporate contribution ever given to any women’s project or organization in the country’s history and has provided necessary funds to get the project rolling. “Without SBC’s support, this museum would not have been built,” says Cathy Bonner, museum founder. “Through its corporate gift, SBC has once again shown that it recognizes and values the contributions of women, not only to society, but also to its own company.”

The facility, initiated by the Austin-based Foundation of Women’s Resources, is being heralded as the nation’s first, comprehensive national museum dedicated to women’s accomplishments and holds the distinction of being the nation’s first millennium project, an honor bestowed two years in Washington, DC, at its official launch by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. The selection of Dallas as the host city couldn’t be more fitting since it’s situated 32 miles south of Texas Woman’s University, nationally recognized for its women’s collections spanning all walks of life from individuals to the Women of the Gulf War Collection. A women’s museum source tells GlobeSt.com that the facility is negotiating with TWU for programming and artifacts. Part of TWU’s archived collection for the WASPS, an all-female corps of ferry pilots during World War II, already is part of the Women’s Museum exhibitions, GlobeSt.com was told.

Technology is a key part of the Smithsonian-affiliated project. More than 11,000 sf of exhibit space is allocated on three levels, featuring a mix of multimedia, interactive and traditional displays. The women’s stories featured in the museum span 500 years of American women and includes an Unforgettable Women exhibit profiling 38 women who have made a distinctive mark on American Society. That particular exhibit has a pool of 100 outstanding women’s memorabilia to draw upon and will be rotated annually. Two of the honorees, Lady Bird Johnson and her press secretary, Liz Carpenter, were on hand with more than 2,000 others at a gala sneak preview held two days ago.

Another key exhibit is the Dream Career Board, an interactive menu of career choices, and the Business, Technology & Beyond exhibit dedicated to contemporary female powerbrokers. The Ronya Kozmetsky Institute for the Future will serve as the facility’s educational arm, featuring 30 computer stations focusing on technology and job skills.

Museum founder Cathy Bonner and Edward E. Whitacre Jr., SBC chairman and CEO, officially signaled the museum’s private unveiling by flipping a switch on a 30-foot Electronic Quilt representative of the permanent exhibit contents.

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