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[WASHINGTON] The Smithsonian network of world-famous museums in Washington is looking to set up a exhibition space in London, on the site of the 2012 Olympics, it announced Wednesday.
It would mark the first time that the Smithsonian - which traces its origins to an Englishman who never visited America - has set up a long-term venue outside the United States.
In a statement, it said it envisions a 40,000 square foot (3,700 square meter) space to open in 2021 in a cultural venue to be called Olympicopolis in the East End of the British capital, a project spearheaded by London's Mayor Boris Johnson.
It would feature permanent and rotating exhibitions, programs and activities. Permanent exhibitions will be free to all, and operating expenses would be covered by donations and admission fees for rotating shows.
"An exhibition space in London will enable us to share the Smithsonian with an international audience in a way we haven't been able to before," said Al Horvath, the Smithsonian's acting secretary, who has been tasked with negotiating a lease for the site.
The Smithsonian operates 19 internationally renowned museums and galleries in and around Washington dedicated to art, science and American history, as well as the National Zoo.
It was founded in the mid-19th century with a donation from a deceased and childless British chemist, James Smithson, who in his will asked for his wealth to be used to create an educational institution in the then-young United States - a country he had never set foot in.
Today, the various Smithsonian sites attract about 30 million visitors a year.