$35 Million Funds New Smithsonian Dinosaur Hall
$ 35 million. The single largest donation made to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in its 102-year history. And it is all in aid of building a new Smithsonian Dinosaur Hall. This exciting news was recently made public, and in response to this the Smithsonian Board of Regents decided to name the new hall in honor of its generous benefactor – David H. Koch.
Who is the Smithsonian Dinosaur Hall Benefactor?
Koch is a businessman in the energy sector, serving as Executive Vice President of Koch Industries Inc. (Wichita, Kan.) This billionaire trained as an engineer at MIT and resides in New York. In 1980 he stood as vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party; he has made significant donations towards political causes that are conservative, targeting the policies of President Obama; and he also donates to medical, cultural and educational causes.
Koch developed a fascination with dinosaurs when, at the age of 14, he visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York with his brother and father. This love of dinosaurs became his hobby and has taken him on museum visits around the globe, as far afield as fossil fields in central Africa to visit paleontological digs. “Dazzled by dinosaurs”, he served on the board of the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum for five years and realized that the Smithsonian dinosaur halls had exhibits that were up to 100 years old, making them increasingly obsolete.
The New Dinosaur Hall isn’t Koch’s First Generous Donation
Koch’s first donation to the Smithsonian came in 2009 when $ 15 million was put towards the Hall of Human Origins, a new exhibit that explored the past six million years of human evolution. This is another of Koch’s interests and the hall was named to honor him. Prior to that, in 2006, he donated $ 20 million to set up the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Another New York project involved a $ 100 million donation in 2008, to the Lincoln Center to fund renovation of the former New York State Theater.
The New Smithsonian Dinosaur Hall will Highlight Current Research
Renovation of the Dinosaur Hall at the Smithsonian will highlight the extensive collection of 46 million fossils and will showcase current research by its well-respected paleo-biology staff. Cristian Samper, Director of the Museum, says that the dinosaur exhibits have been of the most popular for many years, yet have remained static for over 30 years, becoming scientifically outdated.
The New Smithsonian Dinosaur Hall Will Take 7 Years to Complete
Randall Kremer, spokesman for the Museum, says that the dinosaur hall overhaul will take about seven years to complete, but that the current hall will stay open to visitors until the spring of 2014. Thereafter an estimated 10 000 fragile bones and specimens will be relocated elsewhere before construction commences. Major updates have taken place in all the public areas in the Museum, with the Mammal and Oceans halls being renovated during the past ten years. A selection of dinosaur specimens will stay on view to the public in other areas while construction is in full swing. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History receives about seven million visitors per year and the dinosaur hall project is budgeted at ca. $ 45 million.
Controversy Surrounding Koch and His Brother
Despite their generosity, David Koch and his brother, Charles, have received criticism for donations made towards funding efforts that fight climate change legislation. Koch Industries were listed as one of the top ten air polluters in the country, by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Koch claims a fascination of climate change and wants the public to be educated about it. He admits that there is a debate as to the contribution made by human activity versus contributions made by natural climate fluctuation cycles across the world.
When questioned about his contributions towards political causes, versus those to museums and cultural groups, Koch says that they are completely independent of each other. He explains that he has eclectic interests, giving away large percentages of his income to help institutions that are worthy. He attempts to assist in the most important ways possible to make a better place of the world and the new Smithsonian dinosaur hall is just one of those projects.