Anthony Fauci during a virtual event for the Smithsonian's “Great American" medal award ceremony (courtesy the National Museum of American History)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the White House, has donated a 3-D model of SARS-CoV-2 (popularly known as COVID-19) to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Fauci presented the gift to the museum during a virtual event on Tuesday, March 2, in which he was awarded a “Great Americans” medal. The spikey model, made with a 3-D printer, will enter the national medicine and science collections.

Fauci, an epidemiologist who heads the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has used the model for illustration purposes during briefings to lawmakers and the press throughout the pandemic.

“I wanted to pick something that was really meaningful to me and important because I used it so often,” Fauci explained his decision to donate the item in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s a really phenomenally graphic way to get people to understand.” 

In January, the National Museum of American History launched the initiative “Stories of 2020,”  seeking first-person accounts of life during the pandemic for its digital archives. The museums encouraged anyone aged 18 or older to submit their personal stories from 2020, no matter how “big or small” they may seem.

The museum’s curators are also collecting items from the pandemic for the planned exhibition In Sickness and in Health, which will examine more than 200 years of medicine in the United States, including the current pandemic. The museum said that it will seek additional items related to Fauci’s public health work for the exhibition.

The Smithsonian reported that it had recently acquired a photograph by Francesca Magnani depicting a New Yorker wearing a T-shirt with the word “Fauci” and materials related to Fauci’s opening pitch at the Washington Nationals baseball park last July. It also procured a 1995 oral history that is part of John-Manuel Andriote’s “Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America” collection, which includes interviews related to the AIDS crisis. 

The museum’s “Great Americans” medal was awarded to Fauci for his service during the COVID-19 pandemic and for his previous work on other infectious diseases like AIDS.

“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,” said the museum’s director, Anthea M. Hartig. “His humanitarianism and dedication truly exemplify what it means to be a Great American.” 

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