American Museum of Natural History Receives $50 Million for Addition

With the help of a $50 million gift from longtime supporter Richard Gilder, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is planning a $325 million, six-story addition that will serve as a center for research and education, the New York Times reports.

Scheduled for completion in 2019 — the museum's hundred and fiftieth anniversary — the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation will feature exhibitions showcasing scientific topics as well as labs and theaters for scientific presentations. Occupying an open area of the museum's campus along Columbus Avenue and West 79th Street, the addition will total 218,000 square feet, most of it new.

Although a third of the cost of the addition has been raised, the project still faces hurdles. Any proposal to reduce the amount of open space surrounding the museum is likely to receive close scrutiny from the neighborhood's residents, the Times reports. In addition, because the museum is a landmark owned by the city and located on city parkland, the plan must be approved by various municipal agencies, including the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Departments of Cultural Affairs and Parks & Recreation. Nevertheless, preliminary support for the project is already reflected in a $15 million allocation in the city's capital budget.

The latest gift from Gilder, a brokerage executive and longtime history buff, puts his total contributions to AMNH at more than $125 million over the last twenty years, making him the single largest donor in the institution's history. In 2006, he made a $50 million endowment gift to establish the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the museum, which awards doctorates in comparative biology.

"We have a real gap in the public understanding of science at the same time when many of the most important issues have science as their foundation — human health, biology, environment, biodiversity, climate change, mass extinction," said AMNH president Ellen V. Futter. "This museum has a role to play in society in terms of enhancing the role of science."

Robin Pogrebin. "American Museum of Natural History Plans an Addition." New York Times 12/10/2014.