History museum

Popular Yale Museum of Natural History under $ 160 million renovation: CEG


Project staff, curators and partners were invited to sign their names, leave a cuneiform message, and / or draw a dinosaur on the last steel beam of the Peabody Addition. (Photo by Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History)

A massive $ 160 million project is underway at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, as the university’s world-renowned Peabody Museum of Natural History undergoes its first makeover in 90 years.

Founded in 1866, the museum helped introduce the world to dinosaurs in the 19th century and is today one of the oldest and largest university museums in the world.

Home to over 14 million objects and specimens in 10 separate collections, it preserves and displays over four billion years of Earth and human history.

When it reopens its galleries in 2024, the refurbished Peabody will feature a new K-12 education center with dedicated classrooms for local schoolchildren, a light-filled central gallery designed to host outreach events throughout the year, and a new outdoor courtyard for community gatherings.

And, of course, there will be dinosaurs.

Alongside a host of newly exhibited fossils, the first specimens of Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus and Triceratops ever discovered will stand under Rudolph Zallinger’s famous “Age of Reptiles” fresco in the New Dinosaur Room.

Yale’s brontosaurus, in fact, was the first to be discovered. OC Marsh, the famous paleontologist from Yale, and his team announced in 1879 that they had found the dinosaur bones in Wyoming. Marsh named the newly discovered species Brontosaurus excelsus.

The first ever-discovered Brontosaurus specimen towers over the renovated Great Dinosaur Hall in a new, scientifically accurate pose. (Reich & Petch / Centerbrook Architects and Planners rendering)

In total, the total gallery space of the museum will increase by more than 50 percent.

The renovation is due to several significant contributions from local and national donors, including a historic donation of $ 160 million in 2018 from Edward P. Bass, class of 1968. Fundraising for the project is underway.

In November, the Peabody announced it would offer free admission in perpetuity once the facility is open to visitors again.

The museum, which continues to run many of its programs online, will join the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art as free entry museums.

“It’s been part of the plan from the start and the Peabody donors have made it possible,” said David Skelly, director of the Natural History Museum. “I am deeply grateful to everyone for their leadership in helping us realize a vision for the future of the museum. “

The Peabody has long served as a gateway to science for the Greater New Haven community, hosting exhibitions and public programs that connect tens of thousands of visitors each year to the latest research conducted at Yale and around the world.

Dinosaurs will be joined by new exhibits

After the first construction work in 2020, the pace of construction is currently advancing at full speed, Skelly said.

“The Peabody Museum has been in this corner of New Haven since 1925,” he noted. “We put the whole building back in brick, then we add more exhibition space.”

The additions will include many new exhibits, he added, such as separate galleries on the history of science, Native American peoples and Pacific cultures, Skelly said.

“We’re going to be able to share our collections a lot more with the community, and it’s super exciting,” said Mariana DiGiacomo, natural history conservator at Peabody.

Renovation means exhibits need protection

With major construction underway, however, extra care must be taken with all museum items.

“We have to be very careful with the millions and millions of objects that were in this building, [and] they all had to be moved, ”Skelly told the NBCLX TV branch in Hartford.

However, that’s a different story with the colossal dinosaur bones.

“We have three fossil skeletons,” explained DiGiacomo. “One of them is tied to the wall, and the other two are too big to hang out.”

These fossils are housed in place, including the skeleton of a large Edmontosaurus, a duck-billed species.

Eleven dioramas are also protected by temperature control and filtered air.

The two famous murals on display at the museum painted by Zallinger, a 20th century artist, have long been major attractions for the Peabody and cannot be moved during reconstruction. Besides its recognizable “The Age of Reptiles”, is another titled “The Age of Mammals”.

“We’re standing right next to the T-Rex that’s painted on this incredible mural,” DiGiacomo told an NBCLX reporter. “We are doing everything in our power and even beyond to keep it in good condition during construction.”

However, the preservation of a work of art completed in 1947 requires daily visits.

“We look at all the images in this mural and make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be,” she explained. “Some things are harsher than others. For example, when there is a demolition, there is vibration. And so, we constantly monitor those vibrations to make sure that we are keeping them in place.”

They also rediscover an emblematic original architecture.

“It’s things like double arches,” said Tim White, director of collections and research at the museum. “This is a hallmark part of the Peabody Lobby. We started to discover these arches that had been covered over the last 50 or 60 years.”

A refurbished Peabody, something to be proud of

On December 2, staff, curators and project partners were invited to sign their names, leave a message in ancient cuneiform, and / or draw a dinosaur on the last steel beam of the Peabody Addition. The project builder’s team, Turner Construction, and the Local 424 Ironworkers teamed up to secure the beam in place.

In early 2024, when people walk past the Peabody after its renovation, DiGiacomo said they would see a huge dinosaur fossil framed in the window – one of the highlights of the museum’s transformation.

“People are going to come back to see old friends, but in a new light,” she told Hartford station.

Skelly added, “We hope what we are offering is a fantastic experience, so that people can better understand the world around them.”

The exterior of the new Yale Peabody Museum features redesigned public and K-12 entrances to welcome visitors. (Photo Centerbrook architects and town planners)