Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History to open gem and mineral hall named for philanthropist David Friend

David Friend Hall opens October 23, 2016, coincides with Peabody’s 150th anniversary

New display showcases extraordinary specimens from world’s top collections and provides cutting-edge museum experience


The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, one of the world’s preeminent natural history museums, will open David Friend Hall, a state-of-the-art gem and mineral galley, on Oct. 23, 2016 in celebration of the museum’s 150th anniversary. The year-long construction project was funded by a $4 million gift from Yale alumnus and Carbonite founder and executive chair David Friend ’69. The gift funded the construction of the 2,300-square-foot gallery as well as an endowment for future displays and public programs. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on Oct. 13, 2016.

“We are incredibly grateful for the tremendous generosity of David Friend,” said David Skelly, director of the Yale Peabody Museum. “As the Peabody celebrates its 150th anniversary this October, this project symbolizes our dedication to showcasing groundbreaking discoveries in science in new and imaginative ways. Our hope is that the reimagined space of the David Friend Hall serves as the gateway for our visitors to explore the museum’s extensive collections and to become inspired.”

David Friend Hall will feature more than 150 of the world’s premier mineral and gem specimens drawn from the some of the most significant private collections in the United States. The gallery will integrate free-standing, large-scale minerals with small-scale specimens in a dynamic visual display that is designed with the intention of rotating the displays often. It will utilize customized cases to showcase the uniqueness of each specimen. The hall’s custom lighting will further enhance the experience by highlighting each specimen’s natural — but often otherworldly — features.

“This project represents the fulfillment of a lifelong dream,” said Friend. “The new gallery will showcase some of the world’s most important mineral specimens in all of their glory, such as a three-foot-tall geode lined with dark purple amethyst crystals with a giant sparkling white Calcite crystal that extends from top to bottom. One does not have to be an expert on rocks or minerals to be transfixed by the beauty of the extraordinary collection we have assembled. I am so grateful that my alma mater has allowed me to make my dream a reality and to share my passion with the thousands of kids and adults who come through the museum every month.”

Highlights from the inaugural installation will include:

  • the Sword of China Stibnite from the collection of James Zigras;
  • a two-pound dark blue Tanzanite crystal — one of the largest in the world — from the collection of Rob Lavinsky;
  • several prized specimens from the collection of Mark Pospisil, curator at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas;
  • a two-foot-tall twin quartz crystal from the collection of Gene Meieran;
  • an array of thumbnail-sized crystals and other specimens from the collection of Jim and Gail Spann; and
  • cut gems and jewelry from gem experts C.R. “Cap” Beesley and B. Benjamin Zucker.

David Friend Hall features new approaches to learning that reduce the need for signage and wall text, and engage a broad audience through the latest technology. Visitors will learn about the gem and mineral specimens through cloud-based, open source software accessible via smart phone or tablet. As new information about the specimens becomes available, the learning tools can easily be updated to reflect these changes.

The new gallery and the adjacent Hall of Minerals, Earth and Space will further advance the museum’s mission to communicate understanding of Earth history to a wide audience. The 126-seat capacity David Friend Hall, designed by Christopher Williams Architects in collaboration with the Peabody, will also serve as a multipurpose programming space for the more than 300 public programs held annually and will enhance the teaching mission of the Peabody by making the space available to Yale students for classes and activities, a key priority for the institution.

“We want to create an experience that serves all of our guests, from students to seniors, and to all who seek and appreciate the beauty found in nature,” said Richard Kissel, director of public programs. “With this multipurpose programming space we can engage a large number of our constituents through various educational initiatives, from school programs to our annual Fiesta Latina and our Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.”

David Friend Hall officially opens to the public on Oct. 23, 2016. The Peabody will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 13, and will host a mineralogy symposium with leaders in the field on Oct. 22, 2016. The symposium has been organized by the newly established Peabody Museum Mineral Council, a small group of distinguished mineral collectors and enthusiasts from across the United States who will advise Professor Jay Ague, curator-in-charge of the Division of Mineralogy and Meteoritics, on further advancing the museum’s display and collection. Members of the council are: C.R. Beesley (chair), David Friend, Zoe Friend, Robert W. Jones, Carolyn Manchester, Eugene Meieran, Mark Pospisil, James and Gail P. Spann, and B. Benjamin Zucker.


About David Friend

David Friend became interested in minerals as a child while exploring a construction site for I-95 near his home in New Rochelle, New York. He discovered a pocket of mica and quartz crystals in recently blasted rock. The beauty and complexity of the specimens sparked an interest in chemistry and crystals, which in turn led to a general interest in science and, eventually, a career in engineering. He received his B.S. in engineering from Yale in 1969.

Friend joined the Peabody Leadership Council in 2014. The 22-member council provides philanthropic support and advocacy for the Peabody’s academic mission to advance knowledge and understanding of Earth’s history, life, and cultures. Alison F. Richard, a renowned anthropologist, former vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, and former Yale University provost, chairs the council.


The Peabody Gem and Mineral Collection

The Peabody houses one of the nation’s oldest and most comprehensive collections of gems and minerals, including over 40,000 mineral specimens and over 400 meteorites. The collection originated with Yale geologist and mineralogist Benjamin Silliman, whose pioneering teaching of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology was largely responsible for the preeminence of Yale in 19th-century scientific education. Silliman’s mineralogy and geology collection predated the Peabody but came under its care after the museum was established.

Silliman’s student, James Dwight Dana, succeeded Silliman as the pre-eminent geologist of his time, keeping Yale and the Peabody at the forefront of scientific education in geology, mineralogy, and related fields. Dana’s 1848 “Manual of Mineralogy” became the standard text on the subject and, with updates and revisions, is used to this day.

The collection features prime examples of mineral specimens from localities no longer accessible, such as sites from Manhattan, or from Barringer Hill, Texas, which since 1939 has been at the bottom of the man-made Lake Buchanan. Specimens used by James Dwight Dana in his seminal “A System of Mineralogy” (first published in 1837, with its 8th updated edition published in 1997) are also part of the collection, as are 38 mineral type specimens, including those of the nine new mineral species described between 1878 and 1890 by George Jarvis Brush and Edward Salisbury Dana from Branchville (now part of Redding), Connecticut.


150th Anniversary Initiatives

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History celebrates its 150th anniversary on October 22, 2016. The museum has a series of initiatives to mark this special occasion. In addition to the opening of David Friend Hall, the museum is presenting “Treasures of the Peabody: 150 Years of Exploration & Discovery,” an exhibition on view through Jan. 8, 2017, featuring 150 artifacts and specimens from the collection showcasing the museum’s contributions to our understanding of the world today; and “Dinosaurs & Dioramas: A History of Peabody Education and Exhibitions,opening on Sept. 3, 2016, which focuses on the influential exhibitions and educational initiatives from throughout the museum’s history. Opening Aug. 15, 2016 an offsite gallery located at 1 Broadway in New Haven — called Peabody2 — will further celebrate the sesquicentennial, featuring objects from the Peabody’s Southeast Asian and Australian collection. The museum’s fall lecture series and film series will also tie thematically into the 150th anniversary.


150th Anniversary Publications

“House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth” by Richard Conniff (Yale University Press) tells the story of how one museum altered our understanding of the world. Delving into the Peabody Museum of Natural History’s storied and colorful past, Conniff portrays important figures from the Peabody’s history and highlights special objects from the museum’s 13-million-item collections.

Exploration and Discovery: Treasures of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History by David K. Skelly and Thomas J. Near, with photography by Robert Lorenz (Yale University Press), highlights important objects from the museum’s 10 scientific disciplines, including Yale’s first microscope, purchased in 1734; the New World’s first recorded meteorite from 1807; the dinosaur “that changed everything” in 1969; and the skull of a new monkey species discovered in 2012.


About the Peabody Museum of Natural History

The mission of the Peabody Museum is to serve Yale University by advancing our understanding of earth’s history through geological, biological, and anthropological research, and by communicating the results of this research to the widest possible audience through publication, exhibition, and educational programs.

Fundamental to this mission is stewardship of the museum’s rich collections, which provide a record of the history of the earth, its life, and its cultures. Conservation, augmentation, and use of these collections have become increasingly urgent as modern threats to the diversity of life and culture continue to intensify, notes Skelly.

Founded in 1866 with a gift from international financier George Peabody, the Peabody Museum of Natural History has for 150 years acquired, studied, protected, and displayed its ever-expanding collections. Among the museum’s 13 million items are iconic fossils, ethnographic pieces, historical flora, and extinct species — a record of the history of Earth, its life, and its cultures. More than mere curios, these objects represent key cornerstones in our understanding of the natural world. Taken together, the Peabody’s collections illuminate advancements in knowledge over the past 200 years and reveal important connections between social change and the evolution of science, says Skelly. The Peabody has one of the best-developed and expansive collection digitization programs among natural history institutions in the United States.

The museum’s original building opened on the corner of Elm and High streets in 1876. It was demolished in 1917 to create space for new dormitories. The current building, at 170 Whitney Ave., opened to the public in 1926. Only about 5,000 of the Peabody’s 13 million items are on permanent display in the museum’s galleries.

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is committed to the Yale Sustainability Action Plan 2013-2016.

For more information about the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, visit http://peabody.yale.edu.