The University will transform the current headquarters of the University Police Department into a permanent museum dedicated to the history of the District, after a donor gave $5 million to GW.
Albert H. Small – a 2009 recipient of the National Humanities Medal, which honors individuals who contribute to the humanities – donated his personal collection of historical D.C. artifacts to the University in order to give students worldwide access to the information.
The collection will not only be housed in the Woodhull House but will also be digitized to offer others access on the Internet.
“What most influenced my thinking was the idea of making my collection the centerpiece of a broad range of studies and symposia at the University, which will allow future generations to understand and appreciate an important part of America’s history,” Small said.
The museum is slated to be constructed before 2015, University spokeswoman Candace Smith said.
“We don’t have a more detailed timeline at this point,” Smith said.
The Woodhull House will be renamed in honor of Small’s donation, and will be known as the “Historic Woodhull House, Home of the Albert H. Small Washingtonian Collection.”
Smith added the University has not had any discussions about charging for admission to the museum.
“GW’s practice has been to encourage access to art and historical artifacts that are exhibited on campus,” she said.
The museum will be integrated into a number of departments within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, including the history, geography and museum studies departments.
A specialist in books and manuscripts from Christie’s auction house in New York said the collection Small is donating to the University is “the single most significant and extensive collection in private hands relating to the history and development of Washington.”
“Small’s remarkable collection – some 50 years in the making and impossible to duplicate today – is a treasure trove of rare maps, drawings, letters and documents, lithographs, books and ephemera, and is a testament to his passionate enthusiasm as a collector,” Senior Specialist of Books and Manuscripts at Christie’s Chris Coover said.
This is not the first major donation Small has made in his lifetime. He donated the earliest known image of the White House to the White House in 2005. In 2004, Small donated his collection on the Declaration of Independence to the University of Virginia.
“Albert H. Small has been recognized for his support of the humanities with the [National] Humanities Medal, and this is one more example of his dedication to the humanities,” said Robert Perry, chairman and president of the National Trust for the Humanities – a nonprofit that raises funds for the National Endowment for the Humanities – and a member of GW’s Board of Trustees. “The University is deeply honored to be the recipient and guardian of such an historic collection.”
UPD will move to the Academic Center, a move which was decided before Small’s donation.
This article appeared in the February 28, 2011 issue of the Hatchet.