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The Smithsonian Institution, the world’s biggest museum and research complex, publicly launched a $1.5bn fundraising campaign this week, the largest in history for any cultural institution. The effort marks the first organization-wide fundraising campaign for the Washington-based institution, which includes 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities, the Smithsonian said in a statement on Monday.

It said that more than $1bn, or two-thirds of its overall goal, had already been raised during a “quiet phase” that began in October 2011. Notable donors include American businessman David Koch, media personality Oprah Winfrey and Boeing. The campaign will continue through 2017. “The private support the Smithsonian Campaign raises will add new chapters to America’s story, revolutionise learning and advance scientific research in ways that benefit all the generations that follow”, said Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough. The campaign will focus on the Smithsonian’s contributions in history, science, art and culture, according to the statement. Donations will be invested in educational programmes, exhibitions and “attracting and retaining the best minds” according to the website for the Smithsonian campaign.

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