The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Thursday that it will give a $10 million grant to the capital campaign of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The museum, which is scheduled to open in 2015, will become the 19th Smithsonian museum and research facility. It will be the first national museum to focus exclusively on African American life, art, history and culture.

Congress established the museum in November 2003, and construction is set to begin in 2012. It will be located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, next to the National Museum of American History. The museum has established a collection of more than 9,000 artifacts in anticipation of the opening.

The museum will focus on the major periods in African American history, including slavery, Reconstruction, the civil rights era and the 21st century.

“The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be a remarkable resource that will ensure that the rich stories and valuable history of African Americans will be available for all,” said Allan Golston, president of the Gates Foundation’s United States Program, in a press release. “The museum will be an important addition to our National Mall, and we are pleased to be joining others at this unique moment in time to support this worthy investment.”

The museum is hosting exhibitions and educational programming around the country in order to build its identity as an educational institution. Its inaugural exhibition, “Let your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits,” is currently on a 12-city tour leading up to construction in 2012. The museum is also currently showing exhibitions in its own gallery in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on the National Mall.

Next year, the museum will host an exhibition called “For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights” at the International Center of Photography in New York City. This exhibit will focus on the influence of visual images, including newspaper, television and posters, in the struggle for civil rights.

The National Museum of African American History has been slowly raising funds for the estimated $500 million cost of the project. The federal government will cover half of the expenses, with the other half coming from private donations.

“We are so pleased that the Gates Foundation has joined donors from across the country who have built a groundswell of support for this museum. We recognize this as a vote of confidence and a genuine honor,” said Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the museum, in a Smithsonian press release.

The Gates Foundation is joining other major donors like Aflac, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, IBM, MetLife Foundation and the founding council of the museum itself.

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