Houston, the Smithsonian has a problem – or at least it did. Its National Air and Space Museum wanted to display Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit in July 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, but traditional fundraising methods had not proved adequate to support the project.

In response, the museum complex launched an online campaign to crowdfund the endeavor. The successful drive was a forward-thinking way to sweep the dust out of “America’s attic.” We hope to see more like it.

The “Reboot the Suit” Kickstarter met its monthlong $500,000 goal within a week. Now it is aiming for $200,000 more. At the same time, Democratic D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is fighting in Congress to change the Smithsonian’s governance structure, also to enable increased fundraising.

The proposed legislation would remove public officials such as the vice president and the chief justice from the Smithsonian’s board of regents and replace them with private citizens whose positions don’t impede them from soliciting donations. The bill is not new; Norton introduces some version of it every Congress. It always fails.

It’s clear that the Smithsonian needs money. About 70 percent of its funding comes from federal appropriations, but that goes mostly toward salaries, construction and maintenance. For the rest, the Smithsonian relies on business and philanthropy, and lately those sources have not been enough.

The institution has to find a way to fill the budget gap, and online crowdfunding looks like the most viable option given the perennial opposition to Norton’s bill and the remarkable success of “Reboot the Suit.” It reflects the institution’s role as a museum and research system of the people, by relying on today’s citizens to exhibit more of their past.