Dr. Anthony S. Fauci Donates Pandemic-Related Object to the Smithsonian

National Museum of American History Honors Fauci With Great Americans Medal
March 2, 2021
A man with grey hair cradles a blue sphere with pink sticks dotting it

Physician-scientist Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health, has donated his personal 3D model of the SARS-CoV-2 virion to the national medicine and science collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  

The donation was presented virtually to the museum’s Elizabeth MacMillan Director Anthea M. Hartig during the March 2 “Great Americans Program” in which Fauci received the museum’s signature honor, the Great Americans medal. 

Fauci, who is also chief medical advisor to the White House, has used the model as an educational tool in his work over the past 13 months, explaining the COVID-19 pandemic in briefings to congressional members, journalists and the public. The model was made with a 3D printer and shows the various components of the SARS-CoV-2 virion (the complete, infectious form of the virus), including the spike protein. 

During the past year, the museum canvassed the nation, asking the public what it should collect to remember and document this pandemic through a digital platform, “Stories of 2020.” The request to Fauci was made in the spirit of this public collecting.  

“Dr. Fauci has helped save millions of lives and advanced the treatment and our understanding of infectious and immunologic diseases across more than five decades of public service,” Hartig said. “His humanitarianism and dedication truly exemplify what it means to be a Great American.” 

Museum curators are collecting across all aspects of the current pandemic and working toward a future exhibition, “In Sickness and In Health,” that looks at more than 200 years of medicine in the U.S. including COVID-19. As part of that effort, the museum will seek additional items related to Fauci’s public health work. Currently, the museum holds ancillary Fauci materials, including a recent digital photography acquisition that includes a photograph by Francesca Magnani of a New York man sporting a T-shirt with the word “Fauci,” materials related to the July ceremonial opening pitch at the Washington Nationals baseball park and a 1995 oral history that is part of the John-Manuel Andriote “Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America” collection, which includes numerous interviews related to the AIDS crisis. 

Since its inception in 2016, the “Great Americans Award Program” has honored those who have not only made a lasting impact in their fields but those whose philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors set them apart. Appointed to lead NIAID in 1984, Fauci oversees an extensive portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat established diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, as well as emerging diseases. He has advised seven U.S. Presidents on many domestic and global health issues and has made many contributions to both basic and clinical research related to immune responses and infectious diseases. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Fauci graduated first in his class from Cornell University’s Medical College in 1966. 

About the “Great Americans” Medal 

The museum presented Fauci with a specially minted medal struck in Wisconsin from 1.85 ounces of fine gold. It features an American eagle with rays of the sun on the obverse or “head’s side” with the words “Great Americans” and “National Museum of American History” engraved around the edge. The reverse side honors one of the museum’s most important treasures, the Star-Spangled Banner, and includes the mission of the Smithsonian: “For the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” It measures approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter and was inspired by the rare Double Eagle coins in the museum’s National Numismatic Collection, which were designed by famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the $20 gold piece. The medal was made possible by museum board member Jeff Garrett and designed by Michael Guilfoyle, an international designer of coins and medals. 

The “Great Americans” medal is presented annually to up to two recipients and includes an interview with the awardee by Rubenstein. Previous honorees include Madeleine K. Albright, Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), Thomas J. Brokaw, Cal Ripken Jr., Billie Jean King and Paul Simon. The recorded program may be accessed at https://americanhistory.si.edu/great-americans.  

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. All Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu.  

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