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The Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. was chartered as a 501(c)(3) organization in 1960 to assist the United States Air Force Museum (now the National Museum of the United States Air Force) as a medium to inform and educate the public on the important role of the USAF in our nation’s defense. We serve as a philanthropic corporation in assisting the development and expansion of the facilities of the NMUSAF. In addition, the Foundation provides limited funds each year (approx $100,000) to the Museum for special projects and underwrites several program activities such as education, volunteer support, special events and promotional efforts.
The origin of the National Museum of the USAF was in 1923 at McCook Field, across the river from downtown Dayton, Ohio. The Museum moved to Wright Field in 1927, jumping from facility to facility with most of its treasured artifacts stored and displayed outdoors until 1971. The permanent home of the NMUSAF facility opened that year on a 400 acre site at historic Wright Field. The NationalMuseum of the United States Air Force is a USAF facility, which has operations and maintenance funded by Air Force Appropriations. There is no charge for admission.
Funding for a new $6.5 million dollar facility (220,000 sq. ft.) was provided by the Air Force Museum Foundation. Funds came largely from public contributions: donations by corporations, foundations and individuals, plus an Air Force in-service drive in 1970. President Nixon dedicated the new Museum on September 3, 1971 to a crowd of 12,000 enthusiastic supporters.
During 1975-1976, a two-story addition was constructed in front of the core building for slightly more than $900,000. Funds were provided by the Air Force Museum Foundation and the estate of Brig. Gen. Erik Nelson, who in 1924 participated in the first flight around the world. The project provided a new entrance, additional office space, an enlarged cafeteria and an expanded gift shop area.
The Air Force Museum Foundation initiated its second major Building Fund Campaign in 1984 in conjunction with a “matching fund” agreement by the 98th Congress. The second major facility, built for $10.8 million, houses the Korean War Gallery and the Southeast Asia War Gallery (160,000 sq. ft.), and was completed and dedicated in April 1988.
The Foundation built a 500-seat IMAX large screen format theatre for the National Museum of the USAF, which premiered in May 1991. This $7.3 million project included an 80 foot-high atrium over a new lobby, which serves as the architectural focal point of the entire Museum complex. A fund-raising campaign was not necessary for this addition. The funds for this facility were from revenues generated in the Museum Store, Valkyrie Cafe and Membership Program over several years, and prudent investment of these resources until they were needed. An admission fee is charged by the Foundation which operates the Theatre.
Major renovations to the Valkyrie Cafe ($900,000), the Museum Store ($500,000) and the Air Force Museum Theatre ($800,000) were completed with existing Foundation resources in 1997, 2000 and 2013 respectively.
The Foundation provided over $24 million to the Air Force for the construction of the Eugene W. Kettering Cold War Gallery and the Missile and Space Gallery, which were completed in 2003 and 2004 respectively. The Eugene Kettering family, one of the original and prominent supporters of the Museum, provided a lead gift which, when combined with a $500,000 state appropriation and income from the Foundation operations reached the $24 million commitment for this project.
The Foundation is current raising money to fund a 220,000 sq. ft. facility estimated to cost $48 million. The new facility will house three major galleries that will exhibit artifacts telling the stories of Air Force achievements in space, Air Force Presidential airlift support and Air Force global reach in support of the Armed Forces throughout the world. The project is expected to break ground in 2014.
The affairs of the Foundation are overseen by a voluntary Board of Managers of 26 members. The Board consists of prominent local and national business leaders and retired senior Air Force officers and government civilians. Day-to-day operations are vested in the Executive Director who manages the Museum Store, Air Force Museum Theatre, Flight Simulators, Valkyrie Cafe and Friends Membership Program, receives all monetary resources and maintains the Books of Account of the Foundation.