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Bass makes $160M contribution toward Yale’s Peabody Museum

🕐 4 min read

Fort Worth businessman Edward P. Bass has made a $160 million contribution to Yale University that will go toward the renovation of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, the university announced Aug. 28.

The commitment ranks among the most generous gifts to Yale and is the largest known gift ever made to a natural history museum in the United States.

Bass’ contribution will help to fund the renewal and expansion of the museum, which has operated in its current location on Yale’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut, for over 90 years. Founded in 1866, the museum has enjoyed worldwide recognition for its dinosaur fossils, mammal displays, minerals, and anthropology collections. The full scope and timeline for the renovation are still under development, and fundraising for the project is ongoing.

Bass graduated from Yale in 1967.

“I am deeply grateful to Ed Bass for a gift that will transform the Peabody,” said President Peter Salovey. “Imagine an expanded natural history museum where the exhibits reflect the most current science; where faculty members and students can more efficiently use the collections; and where our investigators have spectacular research facilities. This is a magnificent gift.”

Bass previously endowed the directorship of the Peabody and has provided other funding to the museum. He has also supported the strategic development of Yale’s campus, with a focus on Science Hill and the new residential colleges, and he continues to advise the Buildings and Grounds Committee. He serves on the Architecture Dean’s Council and the Peabody Leadership Council, is the former co-chair of the Yale Development Council, and is a former senior fellow of the Yale Board of Trustees.

“Ed has transformed the scientific landscape at Yale,” Salovey said. “He was the founding donor of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, a leading contributor to the Class of 1954 Environmental Science Center, and a major supporter of the Yale Science Building, among other projects. His contributions to the Peabody will further advance scientific research and teaching at Yale.”

Earlier this year, Bass made a gift to fund the construction of the O.C. Marsh Lecture Hall, which will be part of the new Yale Science Building currently rising next door to the Peabody. The 500-seat lecture hall is named in honor of Othniel Charles (O.C.) Marsh B.A. 1860, a pioneering professor of vertebrate paleontology at Yale — the first in the United States — and one of the founders of the museum.

“Museum narratives should change at the same pace as our understanding of the world, which constantly evolves,” said David Skelly, the Frank R. Oastler Professor of Ecology and director of the Peabody. “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.”

Yale’s reputation for leadership in the sciences is grounded historically in the Peabody Museum, founded 152 years ago,” Bass said. “This renovation and expansion will enhance every aspect of the Peabody, bringing it up to date and preparing it for the future. We will have 50 percent more gallery space, cutting-edge exhibits, and the ability to put the extraordinarily rich collection not only on view for the public, but also in the hands of researchers and students alike.”

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History’s current building opened to the public in 1925 and contains more than 13 million objects in 10 different divisions and represents more than 4 billion years of geological, biological, and human history. The treasures housed in the Peabody greatly enhance research and teaching at Yale, and they draw visitors from across the region.

An artist’s rendering of the new Peabody North Court.

A new North Court replaces the old loading dock, to become a welcoming entry for the Yale community. Alongside the court a major new addition fills in an open well in the center of the block. Faced with glass to bring light into the core, the facade is modern but with multiple references to the Peabody’s Gothic traditions. Centering the facade, a glass tower rises above the north door porch as a beacon to the campus. It faces a new entrance to the south side of Kline Geology Laboratory onto the shared terrace.

The planned renovation project will capture new space for the museum by building into an interior courtyard and loading dock and opening part of the lower level to public use. The configuration will create new spaces for research and for the study of the museum’s collections, while increasing the exhibit footprint by 50 percent. To better facilitate public outreach programs, the renovation will introduce a large central gallery, a lower-level lobby that can accommodate large groups, and classrooms for school children.

Skelly emphasized that the project will dedicate space to Yale students: “More than 1,200 graduate and undergraduate students encounter Peabody specimens as part of their coursework each year. We are excited that the renovation features new object study classrooms, which will expand opportunities for students to learn from the collections, faculty members, and museum staff.

“This is truly a historic moment for the Peabody,” Skelly said. “I am extremely grateful for Ed’s generous support of the museum and excited by what it will enable us to accomplish.”

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