Press/Journalists
Press Release
August 21, 2003


Foundation For The National Archives Announces $5 Million Leadership Gift From The William G. McGowan Fund

McGowan Fund Gift To Create New Public Education Opportunities

Media Contact:
Jennifer Devlin
202-414-0786

Washington, DC. . .The Foundation for the National Archives announced today a $5 million leadership gift from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, Inc. The donation marks a significant milestone in the campaign to raise $22.5 million to fund the National Archives Experience. An important component of the National Archives Experience, a 294-seat theater, will be named for William G. McGowan.

"The Foundation for The National Archives is incredibly grateful to Sue Gin McGowan and the other members of the Board of Directors of the McGowan Charitable Fund. Their leadership will help bring our nation's history to life for visitors to the National Archives Experience," stated Tom Wheeler, President of the Foundation for the National Archives. "It is appropriate that this major new Washington venue is named for Bill McGowan who believed that education and communication are determinants of the future. This gift will be a lasting legacy of that belief," said Wheeler.

The National Archives Experience was created by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, and the Foundation for the National Archives to both make the records of America accessible to all, and to teach Americans about the importance of documents and archives to our daily lives and our future. The National Archives Experience will allow visitors, both in person and online, to discover and share in the spirit embodied in records as diverse as the Emancipation Proclamation, Edison's patent application for the light bulb, census data, archival films and many others.

The National Archives Experience will be launched in September 2003 with the rededication and reopening of the Rotunda in the National Archives building on Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues in the nation's capital. At the ceremony, the newly re-encased Charters of Freedom will be unveiled. For the first time, millions of visitors will be able to view all four pages of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

The William G. McGowan Theater is the second major component of the National Archives Experience and will open to the public in the spring of 2004. It will provide a state-of-the-art venue for a broad range of engaging and educational public programs ranging from a signature film, to special documentary features, major public symposia, family programming and lecture series. A highlight among those symposia will be the annual "William G. McGowan Communications Forum", a unique exploration of the junction of communication, technology and government that is inspired both by McGowan's lifelong work and the vital role of the National Archives in all three arenas.

Additional components of the National Archives Experience will include:

  • A major permanent interactive exhibition, "The Public Vaults."
  • A multi-lingual audio tour of the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, offering an enriched learning experience to all visitors, especially children and international visitors.
  • A Special Exhibition Gallery that allows for a changing display of both textual and audio-visual records on selected topics in American history.
  • A Learning Center offering educational activities for children and workshops geared to adults. Programs and resources will include a Learning Lab, Resource Room, Digital Classroom and National Teacher's program.
  • Web Site - The National Archives Experience will have its final component on the Internet with a web site that will recreate online the excitement of visiting the National Archives, as well as be a gateway to the vast and rich records of the National Archives itself.

"William G. McGowan's vision of the potential of communications technology to transform the way we learn lies at the heart of the National Archives Experience," said John W. Carlin, Archivist of the United States. "I can think of no better public-private partnership than this, that fulfills that vision and helps the American people understand how the records of our past impact our present, our future, and our democracy as a whole."

The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund was established to give financial assistance to organizations and causes that reflect the visions, concerns and lifetime experiences of its founder, William G. McGowan. A visionary, William G. McGowan organized MCI Communications Corporation in 1968. From then until his death 24 years later, Mr. McGowan led that company and the entire telecommunications industry in the application of new technologies, the creation of innovative services, and the introduction of competition into what had previously been a closed monopolistic universe. His interests ranged well beyond the confines of commerce and industry, and reflected his recognition that education was a unique means for instilling and fulfilling vision. He believed in finding ways to access the untapped treasures housed in the minds and spirits of the young and putting to good use that crucial human resource.

"William McGowan recognized the importance of education towards a better understanding of our past as a nation and a society," commented Sue Gin McGowan, President of the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund. "Through their new public program, the National Archives Experience and their creative educational components, the National Archives is a perfect fit with Bill's vision of helping current and future generations better understand our history and our past." She added: "Bill would have been particularly pleased to know that a major new venue serving the public in the Nation's capital would bear his name. Bill made Washington, DC, MCI's headquarters early in its history and cared deeply about the community and its people."

About the Foundation for the National Archives:

The Foundation for the National Archives was created to support the Archivist of the United States in developing programs, projects and materials that will introduce and teach people about the diverse collection of the National Archives and its importance to the American people and to people around the world. The purpose of the Foundation is to educate, enrich and inspire a deeper appreciation of our country's heritage through the collected evidence of its history.

The Foundation is also responsible for generating financial and creative support from individuals and corporations to assist in extensive educational outreach and exhibitions of National Archives materials in Washington, DC and College Park, Maryland, as well as nationwide through its regional archives, Presidential Libraries, and traveling exhibitions.

The Foundation for the National Archives is a 501(c)(3) organization. There are currently 30 members of the Board of Directors of the Foundation.

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