Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center
Backstory and Context
History of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center
The founding of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center dates back to 2001, when the chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Fred W. Smith, read that the famous Lansdowne portrait of Washington was going to auction. To ensure the iconic portrait remained in America, Smith moved quickly and contacted the Smithsonian to buy the painting. A week after the notice of the sale went up, Smith and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation had committed $20 million to buy the painting.
However, that wasn’t all, as the Foundation contributed $4 million to renovate the National Portrait Gallery (where the portrait was held) and another $6 million so that the painting could tour the United States so that schoolchildren could see it. On top of it all, the Foundation then committed $15 million (later $24 million) to build the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation at Mount Vernon.
In providing the nation, both young and old, a more nuanced and realistic picture of George Washington, the museum and education center filled its gallery halls with not only artifacts, paintings, and other “typical” museum offerings, but also an action adventure movie, various short films produced by the History Channel, and a myriad of other immersive experiences.1