The Smithsonian set to display the original 'Ice Bucket Challenge' bucket

Jeanette Senerchia's bucket is credited with launching a global fundraising meme and generating more than €100m for Motor Neurone Disease

The Smithsonian set to display the original 'Ice Bucket Challenge' bucket

[Flickr/Anthony Quintano]

Washington DC’s Smithsonian Institute is known the world over for displaying some of the most important objects in the history of mankind and civilisation – as well as pop-culture ephemera that has come to define fashion, leisure, and enlightenment, albeit in a different way. Included in its halls are Julia Child’s kitchen, the original Muppet puppets, and even a pair of – browning – Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz. And starting next week, the Smithsonian will be ticking another item off its bucket list, one that started a social-media revolution.

As part of a new permanent exhibit on ‘Giving in America’, the Smithsonian Institute has announced that it has acquired and will display the bucket responsible for a launching the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, an iconic charity drive that became a global meme in 2014.

Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (also known as ALS), is credited with helping to turn the so-called ice bucket challenge into a charity fundraiser. Chris Kennedy, a professional golfer living in Florida, was nominated by a friend to dump a bucket filled with ice water over himself and nominate others to do the same. Choosing Senerchia, Kennedy also nominated the ALS foundation as the charity, and when Senerchia took up the call, the challenge became a viral meme in the town of Pelham, New York.

From then on, it quickly spread across social media and the world, endorsed by celebrities and world leaders. It is now believed that the global campaign raised in excess of $115m for Motor Neurone research, some of which helped scientists discover a new gene linked to the incurable disease.

The bucket is set to go on display to the public on November 29th, dubbed ‘Giving Tuesday’ after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The dark blue bucket is the one used by Jeanette Senerchia on July 16th, 2014. Both Jeanette and her husband Anthony, health permitting, are expected to attend the opening ceremony.

The ‘Giving in America’ display at the American History Museum has been curated to explore “the history of philanthropy’s role in shaping the United States,” a Smithsonian spokesperson said. The new exhibit will explore the questions who gives, why do we give, what do we give, and how do we give.

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