The institution, which is led by the federal government but frequently seeks private funds, launched a one-month campaign on crowd-funding site Kickstarter that seeks to raise $250,000 to produce the collection.
The anthology is expected to span more than 120 tracks over nine CDs and include a 300-page book. It is billed as the first in hip-hop to cover historically significant works across all record labels.
The effort is being led by the Smithsonian’s newest addition, the year-old National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The museum’s founding director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, in a statement called the anthology “one of the most important projects on contemporary history that the Smithsonian will ever undertake, because it shows that Smithsonian’s work is as much about today and tomorrow as it is about yesterday.”
The anthology will trace the roots stretching back to Africa of hip-hop and explore major themes of the musical style, which was born in New York in the 1970s and has since become a global phenomenon.
“The story of hip-hop is one of great triumph and evolution, and it represents the very best of black music tradition,” Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, who serves on an executive committee behind the project, said in a statement.
Other prominent names involved in the anthology include the producer and percussionist Questlove, pioneering female rapper MC Lyte and veteran hip-hop journalist Bill Adler.
The package would be the latest in the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, which has released about 4,000 albums and earlier put out major anthologies of folk and jazz music.