The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is about to welcome a slew of new gems and a space for them to sparkle.
On June 16, the museum announced a $4 million donation from David Friend ’69, founder and executive chair of the online backup service Carbonite, for the purpose of renovating the Peabody’s auditorium into a mineral and gem gallery. The donation, which was several months in the making, will allow the museum to feature more of its mineral and gem collection, some of which is not on display because of space constraints. The exhibit — which is set to be finished in fall 2016 — will open as part of the museum’s 150th anniversary celebration.
“The new hall will feature breathtaking, large specimens unique in their beauty and grandeur, as well as a rotating series of mineral exhibits on loan from the greatest collections in the world,” said Jay Ague, curator of mineralogy and meteoritics. “I really believe that it will capture the imaginations of the museum’s visitors in a whole new way.”
The auditorium, to be named the David Friend Hall, is located on the third floor of the museum behind the Hall of Minerals, Earth, and Space (HoMES). According to David Skelly, director of the Peabody, the newly transformed gallery space will function as both an exhibition space and a venue for the over 300 lectures and other events held at the museum every year.
HoMES, which opened in 2008 and is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits, will remain unchanged.
“Once completed, this display of minerals will be among the world’s finest, and we are honored to offer it to Yale and New Haven,” said Richard Kissel, director of public programs, adding that he was “confident everyone will be touched by their beauty.”
The mineralogy collection was first made possible by the fundraising efforts of Benjamin Silliman in the early 1800s before the Peabody was established.
The $4 million gift will provide for the space renovation, the purchase of new mineral specimens and the creation of mineral displays. It will also allow the museum to create an endowment to support the use of the hall, Skelly said.
Friend could not be reached for comment. Skelly said the museum is grateful to find someone whose interests and knowledge align so well with the museum and its mission. In an interview with The New Haven Register, Friend said that he became passionate about minerals during his childhood, when he found a blasted rock near his home. He said he hopes the new space will inspire visitors to learn more about how minerals were formed.
“If you ask someone to conjure in their mind an image of a mineral specimen, most would imagine something you can hold in your hand,” Skelly said. “Many of the specimens in the new Hall are absolutely massive and incredibly beautiful. Along with just admiring them for these qualities, they force you to think about how they came to be.”
One of the exhibit’s new specimens is a quartz crystal that weighs at nearly 2,000 pounds.