Jefferson Memorial Gets $10 Million For New Museum From David Rubenstein This is the fifth monument on the National Mall to benefit from a major donation from Rubenstein.
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Jefferson Memorial Gets $10 Million For New Museum From David Rubenstein

Completed in 1943, the Jefferson Memorial is currently undergoing several repair and restoration projects. Plum Pine/Flickr hide caption

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Plum Pine/Flickr

The Jefferson Memorial is getting a new underground museum, courtesy of a multi-million dollar donation from a local billionaire.

"I'm pleased and honored to be able to help out in this relatively modest way," said David Rubenstein as he signed away $10 million on Tuesday afternoon. He was accompanied on the steps of the memorial by Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks for the National Park Service, and Will Shafroth, the president of the National Park Foundation, which serves as the charitable arm of the National Park Service.

Visitors to the Jefferson Memorial might not know that there's a museum space underneath the memorial's iconic dome, portico and columns. The dimly-lit, cramped space hasn't been updated since the 1990s.

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"It's in desperate need of refreshing," Reinbold said during a tour of the space. He hopes the renovations will be complete by 2023, the 80th anniversary of the memorial's dedication.

This is the fifth National Mall landmark to benefit from Rubenstein's largesse. Previous gifts include $7.5 million to the Washington Monument after the 2011 earthquake, $12.3 million in 2014 to Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery, $5.4 million in 2015 to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, $18.5 million in 2016 to the Lincoln Memorial, $1 million that same year to the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument, and another $3 million this year to the Washington Monument to modernize its elevator.

He calls these major gifts "patriotic philanthropy." Rubenstein is a longtime American history buff; just this week, he published a book of interviews with noted biographers called "The American Story: Conversations With Master Historians."

"While Thomas Jefferson is not without some things that we can question today, clearly he did some great things for our country, including being the author of the Declaration of Independence, creating the University of Virginia, and as president, he bought the land that we call the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of our country," Rubenstein said.

The Jefferson Memorial museum project is separate from the restoration work that's been going on at the memorial since February.

The Park Service is in the process of removing a pesky black substance called biofilm from the memorial's dome and repairing its internal roofing structure. The $8.75 million government-funded project is scheduled to be complete in April 2020.

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