Landmark Gift Establishes Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University

Yale University President Richard C. Levin today announced the creation of the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, funded by a gift of $25 million from Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin ‘78. The Institute, to be housed on Yale’s West Campus, will unite the vast resources of the University’s museum and library collections with the scientific and technological expertise of Yale’s academic departments to advance conservation science and its practice around the world.

“This extraordinary gift enables a breakthrough in the global practice of conservation and preservation,” Levin said. “Through their philanthropy, Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin have already established themselves among the world’s foremost custodians of cultural resources. I am deeply grateful that their support will allow Yale to combine the resources of its three museums and its library to develop new approaches to conservation and to engage in new international collaborations in research and education.”

The Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage will draw on the personnel and material resources of the University Library, the Peabody Museum of Natural History, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure. Curators and staff from these institutions will collaborate with faculty from chemistry, engineering, computer science, and other departments to work on solving the most pressing conservation challenges.

The Institute will be located on Yale’s West Campus, a 136-acre complex acquired from Bayer Pharmaceuticals in 2007 and a short seven miles west of downtown New Haven. Scott Strobel, Vice President for West Campus Planning and Program Development, noted that the creation of the Institute represents another milestone in the development of the campus. “We already have an extraordinary community of faculty members and staff using the West Campus facilities to address shared conservation needs and to conduct original research within Yale’s collections of books, artifacts, and natural specimens,” Strobel said. “The new Institute will build on this community to accelerate dramatically Yale’s mission of conservation, teaching, research, and publication.” When fully built out, the West Campus will be home to six interdisciplinary research institutes related to the life sciences in addition to the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.

The Institute’s physical home will be a sustainable, 212,000-square-foot building, architecturally optimized for the preservation of objects. It will provide scholars and students with access to laboratories, offices, and world-class facilities for meetings, seminars, training programs, and conferences.

The work of the Institute will be supported by two core facilities in conservation and digitization: The conservation core will provide specialized research tools and focus on new technologies and methods to reduce threats common to many objects. The digitization core will apply new technological tools to capture, store, curate, and share material in digital form. As it works to meet these basic goals, the Institute will pioneer areas of research and analytical techniques that are at present unknown to the world of conservation.

“We felt that Yale was particularly well-equipped to host this institute,” Peter Baldwin said. “The University shares our deep conviction that new technology will not only help us protect our most valuable cultural assets, but also expand access to those assets for people around the world. We are confident that the work that Yale’s scholars and scientists are already doing within their own collections and at cultural sites across the globe will be quickly applicable for conservationists worldwide.”

Among other projects, the Institute will extend initiatives already under way at Yale to explore the use of nanotechnology to slow the decay of artworks; apply computer technology to create specialized tools to care for ancient mosaics; and use 3-D technology to digitize and study collections. The Institute also aims to build its faculty and staff resources so that it may increasingly offer services of assessment and technical analysis in the field, addressing site conditions and unique preservation issues that threaten the longevity of vital cultural resources in remote environments.

The Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage will be well positioned to disseminate its findings quickly and broadly. The Institute will convene scholars for conferences and meetings to discuss best practices and new findings. Its global outreach will go far beyond local work with visiting scholars. The Institute expects to develop a program of online courses based on its cultural heritage collections. And the University has adopted policies that make digital copies of its collections available to the widest global audience, without limitations.

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