Yale Receives $160 Million Gift for Peabody Museum

Yale Receives $160 Million Gift for Peabody Museum

Edward P. Bass first visited Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History in 1952 when he was 6 years old. Sixty-six years later he has donated $160 million toward renovating the museum, the university announced Tuesday.

Mr. Bass, a Yale alumnus, businessman and philanthropist, said his gift was motivated by a belief in institutions.

“I see institutions as having the power to transmit and perpetuate a set of fundamental values, and to do so generation to generation,” he said in a phone interview. Yale, he added, is a particularly strong institution with a long history: “It’s been more than 300 years, so I have some faith.”

The Peabody Museum, founded in 1886, is home to about 13 million objects — fossils, dinosaur skeletons, minerals and meteorites, and scientific instruments among them — from more than four billion years of history. It has been operating in its current location since 1925.

“With funding provided by Ed Bass and other donors, we can renew the Peabody as a gateway for the sciences — one that is equipped physically and programmatically to operate at the very cutting edge of scientific research, teaching and public education,” David Skelly, a professor of ecology and the director of the Peabody, said in a statement.

The renovation will include the creation of 50 percent more exhibition space, a lower-level lobby to welcome large groups and new classrooms. The museum’s collection of dinosaur and mammal skeletons will also be remounted as a part of the project to reflect scientists’ current understanding of their behavior.

The timeline for the work is still being determined and fund-raising for the renovation is ongoing.

Mr. Bass said that his priorities as a donor are to help preserve the museum’s collections against the trend of deaccessioning. “I really see the value of collections and of object-based study and that includes in the sciences,” he said.

Maintaining the integrity of the museum’s collections isn’t just a matter of nostalgia. Mr. Bass pointed out that by keeping them intact, scientists can return to these objects in light of technological advances and make new discoveries about them: “Who would have imagined, even 25 years ago, that you could go into some things that were fossilized but not entirely petrified and actually extract DNA?”

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