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Oct 31, 2011 Washington, D.C.

The White House Historical Association (WHHA) has announced a gift of $10 million from philanthropist and former White House aide David M. Rubenstein to establish an education and research institute focused on White House history.

The David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History will feature an innovative digital and online resource center, interactive and immersive new educational experiences, and new programs to engage the community. Expected to be fully operational in 2013, the Center will be located at Decatur House, a National Trust site owned by the National Trust and operated by the White House Historical Association.

Rubenstein’s donation constitutes a significant leadership gift to the $25 million Campaign for White House History, which was launched in June by the White House Historical Association in marking its fiftieth anniversary as a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House.

News of David Rubenstein’s gift was first shared at a private event at the White House hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama earlier today. WHHA chairman Frederick J. Ryan Jr., thanking Mrs. Obama for hosting a reception for the association’s board of directors, announced the gift.

David M. Rubenstein is a co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest and most diversified private equity firms with approximately $153 billion in assets under management. From 1977 to 1981, Rubenstein was Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy under former President Jimmy Carter.

“Having had the great privilege to work in the White House, I am honored to support the White House Historical Association, which plays a critical role in the public’s knowledge of and appreciation for this remarkable building and its unique place in history,” said Rubenstein in announcing the gift.

In the past, Rubenstein’s efforts to preserve and ensure public access to historical documents have included his loans of Magna Carta to the National Archives, a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation to the White House’s Oval Office, a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence to the State Department, and the first official map of the United States published after the Revolution to the Library of Congress.

“We have been inspired by the significant contributions David Rubenstein has made to preserving and sharing our nation’s history, and we are deeply grateful to him for his generous gift,” said Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., board chairman of the White House Historical Association.

Thanks to David Rubenstein, the stories the White House tells about our nation, our system of government and ourselves will continue to be told for generations to come.

The David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History will feature:

  • A new digital/online archive, which will assemble, interpret and provide access to the extensive digital archives of the White House Historical Association. It will also serve as a portal to hundreds of thousands of other documents, moving and still images, sound recordings and published works from more than 100 presidential libraries and other historic sites across the country. This archive will offer unprecedented opportunities for online and distance learning by thousands of students, educators, scholars and others around the world, helping to better understand, interpret and relate to the history of the White House, its inhabitants, and the country.
  • Immersive, interactive educational programs, led by trained educators and engaging more than 10,000 students and their teachers every year. These small-group experiences will develop critical thinking skills in K-12 students, offer standards-based instruction, and inspire a deeper appreciation and understanding of history.
  • The White House Teachers’ Institute, which will provide week-long professional development programs for educators at elementary, middle and high school levels, focusing on a wide range of topics, including presidents and the Civil Rights Movement, the White House at war, the diplomatic role of the chief executive, and more.

Decatur House (1818), an historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is one of three residences remaining in the country designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the Father of American Architecture. Built in the neoclassical style for naval hero Stephen Decatur and his wife Susan, the home’s prominent location on Lafayette Square across from the White House made it one of the capital’s most desirable addresses, including when it served as the unofficial residence of the Secretary of State. The property also contains a rare urban slave quarters, the only lasting physical evidence that African Americans were held in bondage in sight of the Executive Mansion.

Through a comprehensive conservation plan, Decatur House will be converted into an economically viable and sustainable model for innovative use of other historic properties across the country. As such, Decatur House will continue to be available for private rentals and public events, including scholarly symposia, lectures and workshops, book signings, and more.

“By opening a restored Decatur House to the public, the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History will reconnect the house with the president’s neighborhood and the surrounding community,” said Neil Horstman, President of the White House Historical Association. “It will also provide a programmatic home for the White House Historical Association as we enter our second half-century.”

Championed by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, the White House Historical Association was established in 1961 as a non-profit organization to enhance the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House. All proceeds from its trusts, publications and other items are used to fund acquisitions of historic furnishings and artwork from the permanent collection, to assist in the preservation of the public rooms, and further its educational mission.