The ultimate reminder of Americans' altruism is in the Smithsonian

Last Updated Nov 29, 2016 7:29 PM EST

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is quickly becoming known as “Giving Tuesday” -- and it’s only fitting that today an icon of altruism was given a new home in the Smithsonian.

It was a social media sensation: Seventeen million people, our friends and coworkers along with presidents, billionaires and celebrities all braved the “Ice Bucket Challenge” that raised more than a $100 million to fight ALS. 

Bill Gates does the Ice Bucket Challenge. CBS News

And it really got started with this -- a blue plastic bucket Jeanette Senerchia used to mop her floors. She did the challenge for her husband Anthony, who suffers from the degenerative disease.

The new exhibit, Giving in America, at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. CBS News

“That was the first documented connection between ALS and the ice bucket,” says Bonnie Lilienfeld, the curator of a new exhibit called “Giving in America” at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.

“You look at  this and you think why would the Smithsonian collect a mop bucket?” Lilienfeld says. “It really helps us tell the story that objects can really help us understand our history.

It’s displayed next to an alms box from the 1800s people would have used to raise money for charity.

“And then we have the March of Dimes can that someone would have marched around their community going door to door asking people in their community to contribute,” Lilienfeld says. “That money would be collected and go into a pool and then into a bigger pool and in some ways it is not that different from the ice bucket challenge.”

The can from the March of Dimes and the first known ice bucket used in the Ice Bucket Challenge.  CBS News

One contribution can make a huge difference. Says Lilienfeld: “It seems like the proverbial drop in a bucket when you do it once but when you do it 17 million times it really has an impact.”

Drops in a bucket or from a bucket -- that become a deluge of good. 

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    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.