Rose Center for Earth and Space

American Museum of Natural History, New York

  • Nature, Animals & Parks
  • 1999

Sometimes the vision and management direction a philanthropist offers to a project can be as valuable as his money. Financier Richard Gilder was a longtime member of the board of directors for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and served on its planetarium committee. By 1992, annual attendance at the venerable Hayden Planetarium had dropped by more than 20 percent in a decade, and the facility was showing its age. Museum leaders originally planned a modest upgrade that would cost $15 million. Gilder urged starting over, and called not just for a new planetarium and exhibits but also a high-powered research center (Gilder eventually convinced astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to be the first director). The grand $210 million project attracted donations, including one for $20 million from builder and philanthropist Frederick Rose. Gilder contributed significantly himself. In just a few years, the modest planetarium had become the Rose Center for Earth and Space, with multiple theaters, halls, and exhibits.