A new dinosaur exhibition hall is to be added to the National Museum of Natural History, thanks to a $35m donation from philanthropist and executive vice president of Koch Industries, David Koch.
The upcoming renovation, the biggest and most complicated in the museum’s 101 year history, will allow the museum the opportunity to showcase its extensive collection of 46 million fossils. It’s expected that preparations for the design of the new exhibition will be started immediately, and the exhibition will eventually include the most current scientific research possible.
The existing dinosaur hall, which began life in 1910 as “The Hall of Extinct Monsters”, will remain open until 2014, when it will close to the public in order for construction to begin. The current hall has been unchanged for the last 30 years and has become outdated, as the museum lacked the necessary funding for renovation of the space.
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The National Museum of Natural History has one of the most comprehensive collections of fossils to be found, as well as a staff of highly regarded paleobiologists, and the new exhibition will allow the museum to present the fossils in different ways that make the best out of the new space and allow guests to see how dinosaurs and other extinct creatures lived in changing environments.
Thanks to the generous gift from Mr Koch, the museum can now begin work on a complete overhaul of the old exhibition, which has always been a firm favourite for families and students who visit the Smithsonian.
The money will make up the majority of the $45m estimated cost of the new 25,000 square-foot exhibition and is the largest single gift in the Natural History Museum’s history. Mr Koch has been a member of the museum’s board for five years and provided the lead gift for the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, which opened in 2010.
Mr Koch has also contributed to many cultural, educational and health organizations, including Lincoln Centre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Dinosaurs have always been one of the Smithsonian’s most important and popular exhibitions,” said Cristián Samper, director of the National Museum of Natural History.
“The new paleobiology and dinosaur hall will enable us not only to show remarkable fossils, but also to present the latest scientific findings about how life on Earth has evolved.”
The renovation will require extensive work to be carried out on infrastructure, which will be paid for by federal funding and it’s thought that over 10,000 bones and other fragile specimens will be removed by special crews in the current exhibition before work begins.
The National Museum of Natural History employs more than 460 staff and is home to 127 million artefacts. The museum has an annual federal budget of $68m in FY 2012 and sees an average of around 7 million visitors through its doors each year.
“We are grateful to David Koch for this gift that will allow the Smithsonian to update one of the most important and popular exhibitions in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History,” said Secretary of the Smithsonian Wayne Clough.
“Millions of Americans and visitors from all over the world will learn and be inspired for years to come.”
Recent renovations of some of the major museum exhibits have included: the Behring Family Hall of Mammals (2003), the Butterfly Pavilion (2007), the Sant Ocean Hall (2008) and the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins (2010).
The scientists based at the Smithsonian publish around 500 scientific research papers every year.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and this is extended to 7.30pm in the busy summer months; admission is free.