Courtesy of Centerbrook Architects and Planners
From a towering Brontosaurus skeleton to an ancient egyptian mummy from the 4th century B.C., the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History provides a comprehensive record of the Earth’s history. Currently, the museum is undergoing a major renovation project with the goal of being easier to visit and use for the Yale community and general public.
The Peabody Museum was founded in 1866 and is one of the largest and oldest university-based natural history museums. Its collections contain more than 13 million objects representing over 4 billion years of geological, biological and human history. In a typical year, more than 150,000 people visit the museum. But since March 2020, the museum has been closed due to the current pandemic, while also undergoing renovations to transform its space and increase accessibility to its collections.
“What we are trying to do with the renovation is place these collections — these objects, the specimens — and the expertise that is represented by the museum’s staff, the curators, in the hands of Yale faculty and students from all across the university,” David Skelly, director of the Peabody Museum, previously told the News.
In August of 2018, Yale announced that it would be renovating the museum after receiving a $160 million gift from Edward P. Bass ‘67. It will be the first comprehensive renovation for the museum in 90 years.
The design plans include increasing exhibition space by 50 percent, creating a 3-story central gallery and placing classrooms throughout the museum for Yale University classes. Skelly is also excited for a permanent history of science exhibit once the renovations complete. The exhibit will feature items from the museum’s Division of History of Science and Technology, which has a collection of scientific and medical instruments, artifacts and technologies from across more than 500 years.
“This museum should represent the sciences more broadly, and the [history of science] gallery is a physical way to make that connection,” said Skelly. “I want people who are chemists, physicists, astronomers and so on to feel like — whether they’re faculty, students or members of the public — that this is a place for them too.”
In order to renovate the building, the museum collections need to be moved into storage spaces for safekeeping. In January 2020, the Great Hall of Dinosaurs and the Hall of Mammalian Evolution closed and the museum deconstructed its skeleton mounts. A few of the dinosaur specimens have found new homes in the lobby of the Yale Science Building’s O.C. Marsh Lecture Hall.
The Peabody’s Anthropology Collection and History of Science and Technology Collection have also been moved to a newly renovated space on West Campus. Both collections will be made available for viewing to students and faculty starting in the fall.
As of May 2021, there are only five objects still on display in the museum galleries. Once all of the collection items have been moved to other spaces, construction will begin inside the building. The museum is set to finish its renovations and reopen to the public in 2024.
“The museum has not been a place where every single Yale College student comes, and it needs to be,” Skelly said.
The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is located in the Science Hill section of campus at 170 Whitney Ave.