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Smithsonian to reopen 1 of Mall’s oldest buildings

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Smithsonian Institution announced plans Wednesday to create an innovation pavilion with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in one of the oldest buildings on the National Mall.

The 132-year-old Arts and Industries Building has been closed since 2004 due to structural problems and has been undergoing repairs.

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough says the building will celebrate American ingenuity as it did with its first major exhibition of inventions in the 1880s. The building was first used in 1881 for President James Garfield’s inaugural ball.

The building will be reopened in 2014 with patent office funding to begin housing exhibits and interactive programs for seven years. The patent office will provide up to $7.5 million, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said.

In recent years, Smithsonian curators have worked with the patent office to develop exhibits about the history of American innovation.

Initially, the patent office is contributing $1 million to fund an Innovation Expo in June 2013 at the agency’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Future expos will then be held on the National Mall each year. The initial funding also will cover design and planning for the new pavilion.

The building’s interior will be left unfinished. Plans for the innovation pavilion are temporary because a proposed National Museum of the American Latino could later be located there. The Smithsonian also considered creating a high-tech education center with theaters and exhibits.

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