Save America’s Treasures Grant Awarded to Yale Peabody Museu

February 18, 2011

$450,000 Award Ensures Long Term Preservation of Marsh Dinosaur Collections

New Haven, CT—The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is one of nine recipients of a Save America’s Treasures Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The $450,000 award, one of the largest issued, will allow the Museum to re-house and secure the long term preservation of the nineteenth-century dinosaur collections from the American West of Othniel Charles Marsh. Among them are iconic dinosaurs Apatosaurus (“Brontosaurus”), Allosaurus, Stegosaurus and Triceratops.


Save America’s Treasures grants support the preservation of our nation’s most significant and endangered cultural treasures. “These Save America’s Treasures grants will preserve the physical fabric of our history and the rich diversity of America’s story, as told by its artists, scholars, and other notable figures. These awards also honor the hundreds of volunteers, organizations, and communities whose energy and investment are ensuring that this national legacy endures for generations to come,” said First Lady Michelle Obama, who announced the grants at a ceremony in the nation’s capital.


Yale professor of paleontology from 1866 to his death in 1899—the nation’s first—and first head of the Peabody (the title “director” not yet in use), O.C. Marsh is a major figure in the history of science and one of the founding fathers of American paleontology. On his death in 1899, the New York Times referred to his “marvelous achievements in paleontology,” and ranked him among the “greatest scholars and investigators” and “distinguished naturalists” of the age.


Marsh’s greatest legacy is the massive collection of dinosaur fossils that represents the backbone of the Peabody collections. “Prior to the 1870s, dinosaur specimens were rare,” said Peabody Director Derek E. Briggs. “The wealth of specimens obtained by Marsh helped to raise the profile of the group and lay the foundations of today’s public fascination with dinosaurs.” Together with Marsh’s body of work based on them, these collections provided the fossil evidence to advance Darwin’s theory of evolution.


Thanks to the Save the America’s Treasures grant, environmental controls, storage upgrades and other improvements will halt degradation of the dinosaur specimens caused by substandard conditions and secure their long-term safety and stability. The level of conservation and care that results will also ensure greater access to these historically and scientifically important collections and the information they hold, making them available to researchers, educators, students and the public. Overseeing the project for the Peabody will be Senior Collection Manager Dr. Chris Norris and Chief Preparator Marilyn Fox.


“The fossil collections at Yale are the most tangible part of Marsh’s immense and ongoing legacy to the nation and a vital resource for scientific research,” said Briggs.” “Dinosaurs and other vertebrate fossils have a profound ability to help inform, educate, and inspire diverse audiences. This project will ensure that they continue to amaze and inspire future generations,” he added.