Peabody Museum of Natural History
|Peabody Museum of Natural History|
The exterior of the Peabody Museum
|Location||New Haven, Connecticut|
|Director||Derek E. G. Briggs (as of Sept. 2009)|
The Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University is among the oldest, largest, and most prolific university natural history museums in the world. It was founded by the philanthropist George Peabody in 1866 at the behest of his nephew Othniel Charles Marsh, the early paleontologist. Most known to the public for its Great Hall of Dinosaurs, which includes a mounted juvenile Apatosaurus and the 110-foot (34 m) long mural, The Age of Reptiles; it also has permanent exhibits dedicated to human and mammal evolution; wildlife dioramas, Egyptian artifacts; and the birds, minerals and Native Americans of Connecticut.
The Peabody Museum is located at 170 Whitney Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut, USA, and is run by almost one hundred staff members. While the original building was demolished in 1917, it moved to its current location in 1925, and has since expanded to occupy the Peabody Museum, the attached Bingham and Kline Laboratories, parts of three additional buildings, and a field station at the Long Island Sound. The museum also owns Horse Island in the Thimble Islands, which is not opened to the public, but used for experiments. Space is used for storage, work, and classrooms. The Environmental Science Center, completed in 2001 and connected to the museum and the adjacent Kline Geology Laboratory, hosts approximately one-half of the museum's 12 million specimens.
The Peabody has several world-important collections. Perhaps the most notable are the vertebrate paleontology collections, among the largest, most extensive, and most historically important fossil collections in the United States (see Othniel Charles Marsh, R.S. Lull, George Gaylord Simpson, John Ostrom, Elisabeth Vrba, and Jacques Gauthier), and the Hiram Bingham Collection of Incan artifacts from Machu Picchu, named for the famous Yale archaeologist who rediscovered this Peruvian ruin. Also notable are the extensive ornithology collection, one of the largest and most taxonomically inclusive in the world, and the associated William Robertson Coe Ornithology Library, one of the best in the United States. The collection of marine invertebrates is additionally extensive, having benefitted from the work of such prolific invertebrate zoologists as Addison Emery Verrill. Faculty curators for the collections are drawn from Yale's departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Geology and Geophysics, and Anthropology. Because these departments maintain a strong tradition of hiring faculty who will perform collections-based research, especially after the renewed support for organismal biology at Yale under President Richard Charles Levin and in particular former provost Alison Richard, nearly all of the collections are under active internal use and enjoy continuous and considerable growth.
The museum has erected the first full-scale reproduction of a Torosaurus on Whitney Avenue next to the entrance. The 3 m (9 ft) tall, 7 m (21 ft) long, 3.33 metric ton (7,350 lb) statue was sculpted in clay and cast in bronze, and set on a 4 m (13 ft) tall granite base. The reproduction of T. latus is scientifically faithful of T. latus, and its skin is based on the fossilized skin impressions left by a Chasmosaurus (a closely related ceratopsid).
Permanent exhibits include:
- The Great Hall of Dinosaurs with the skeleton of an Apatosaurus .
- Fossil Fragments: The Riddle of Human Origins is a new exhibit dedicated to human evolution.
- The Birds of Connecticut Hall has 722 specimens, representing more than 300 of the 382 documented species in the state of Connecticut.
- There are eleven dioramas on the plant and vertebrate ecology of Connecticut. They were designed by J. Perry Wilson, F. Lee Jaques, and Ralph C. Morrill.
- The Hall of Mammalian Evolution. Here shows The Age of Mammals mural, also painted by Rudolph F. Zallinger.
- An extensive collection of minerals, primarily from Connecticut.
- Native American artifacts from Connecticut.
- The Hall of Ancient Egyptian Artifacts.
The Peabody Museum has curators representing Anthropology, Botany, Entomology, Invertebrate Zoology, Invertebrate Paleontology, Vertebrate Zoology (with individual curators for Herpetology, Ichthyology, Mammalogy, and Ornithology), Paleobotany, Vertebrate Paleontology, Mineralogy, Meteorites, and Historical Scientific Instruments.
There are almost 100 full and part-time staff, including curators, assistant curators, curators emeriti, curatorial affiliates, and volunteers. Curators and assistant curators are also faculty members in related departments.
Othniel Charles Marsh was an undergraduate and later the Professor of Paleontology at Yale University. His education was paid for by his wealthy uncle George Peabody, who began to donate much of his accumulated wealth to various educational institutions at the end of his life. At the request of his nephew, he founded Yale's Museum of Natural History in 1866 with a gift of $150,000.
Yale's collection at the time was mostly minerals, collected by the geologist and mineralogist Benjamin Silliman. Marsh was one of the museum's first three curators, and when Peabody died in 1869 he used his inheritance to fund expeditions which greatly increased the museum's collections. His primary interest was dinosaurs, and during the infamous period in paleontological history known as the Bone Wars, he discovered 56 new species of dinosaur and shipped literally tons of fossils back from the American Southwest. His finds also included fossils of vertebrates and invertebrates, trackways of prehistoric animals, and archaeological and ethnological artifacts.
The museum officially opened to the public in 1876. In 1917, it was demolished and replaced by the Harkness Memorial Quadrangle dormitory. Due to World War I, most of the collections were put in storage until December 1925, when the current building was dedicated. The new building had a great, 2-story hall designed specifically to hold Marsh's dinosaurs.
Some other significant events include:
- In 1931, the mounting of Marsh's Apatosaurus was finished, after 6 years of work.
- In 1947, Rudolph F. Zallinger finished painting dinosaurs in their natural habitats in his 110-foot (34 m) long mural The Age of Reptiles, after 3-1/2 years of work.
- In 1959, Bingham Laboratory was completed.
- In 1963, Kline Laboratory was completed.
- In 1972, the Birds of Connecticut Hall opened.
- In 2001, The interdisciplinary Environmental Science Facility was constructed. It houses collections space for the museum and laboratory space for several curators.
- The museum was featured in The Simpsons episode "Burns, Baby Burns." In the episode Mr. Burns has a relationship with Lily Bancroft and produce an illegitimate son played by Rodney Dangerfield. He flashes back to 1939 for his 25th graduation class reunion. They make love in the museum, specifically in an exhibit featuring eskimos and penguins.
- "The Torosaurus Project at the Yale Peabody Museum". Peabody Museum of Natural History. 2005. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
- Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University (official website)