Yale Peabody Museum receives major gift to create state-of-the-art mineral gallery and programming venue

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David Friend ’69 B.S. (center) is pictured with Peabody Museum Director David Skelly (right) and Professor Jay Ague, the museum's curator of mineralogy.

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History has received a $4 million gift from Carbonite founder and executive chair David Friend ’69 to renovate the museum’s auditorium into a state-of-the-art mineral and gem gallery and multipurpose programming space. Friend will also establish an endowment to support the displays and programming within the space.

The project’s completion is timed to coincide with the Peabody’s 150th anniversary in 2016.

“We are very grateful for the incredible generosity of David Friend,” says David Skelly, director of the Yale Peabody Museum. “This renovation project will reimagine our auditorium as both an exhibit space and a room in which groups can gather together for teaching and learning. The remarkable specimens will complement our displays in the adjacent Hall of Minerals, Earth, and Space, and advance the museum’s mission to communicate understanding of Earth history to a wide audience.”

The new space will be named David Friend Hall.

“I envision a spectacular space focused on the beauty and wonder of nature that features some of the world’s most beautiful and awe-inspiring minerals,” says Friend. “It will possess the visual power to inspire among visitors a new level of interest in Earth science.

“Anchoring the space will be monumental crystals formed before the first dinosaurs walked the earth” in recognition of the Peabody’s renowned paleontology collection, he adds.

The mineral and gem gallery will provide a distinctive venue for the Peabody’s more than 300 programs a year, including lectures, classes, dinners, and special events. In addition to accommodating public programming, the new hall will enhance the teaching mission of the Peabody by drawing Yale students into the museum for classes and activities, a key priority for the institution, according to Skelly.

Early love of minerals

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, says Friend. He received his B.S. in engineering from Yale in 1969.

“My passion for minerals came from inspiration, not textbooks,” says Friend. “The variety and beauty of minerals is astonishing. My hope is that this new space inspires visitors to ponder how these materials are formed, where they come from, and their composition.”

Friend joined the Peabody Leadership Council in 2014. The 19-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.

Friend is also a member of a newly established museum mineral council, a small group of distinguished mineral enthusiasts and collectors across the United States that will advise Professor Jay Ague, the Peabody’s curator of mineralogy, on developing the museum’s collection.

Peabody’s gems and minerals collection

The Peabody houses one of the nation’s oldest and most comprehensive collections of gems and minerals. 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.

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Melanie Brigockas: melanie.brigockas@yale.edu, 203-432-5099