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$1 million gift to support expansion of Natural History Museum

by John Sponauer - August 27, 2007

A $1 million gift from Julia B. Budney to support the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History at the University will allow the museum to expand its facility in the future and its educational programs today.

The current and deferred gift support from Mrs. Julia B. Budney will be used to promote educational activities, as well as the design and construction of the next phase of the museum’s renovations.

It also includes support for the Henry S. Budney Natural History Collection, more than 115 high-quality vertebrate mounts and assorted ethnographic items collected by Mrs. Budney’s late husband and contributed by his estate.

“The diversity of the natural world is the research focus of many of our faculty in liberal arts and sciences,” says Ross MacKinnon, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the museum’s home at UConn.

“Julia Budney’s gift will help the museum’s visitors – both children and adults – understand why we are interested in biodiversity, conservation, and our natural history.

The museum has an active educational loan program serving nature-oriented organizations statewide.

The Budney collection will enable the museum to expand this program, and Mrs. Budney’s gift specifically allows the museum to move forward more quickly on the expansion needed to permanently house and maintain the collection.

Mrs. Budney says her gift is for the benefit of the whole state as well as for the museum.

“I want future generations of children to see first-hand how interesting natural history can be,” she says.

“The museum brings education to life and helps visitors understand the beauty of nature and see the ways we’re all connected to it.

“With the new exhibition space and renovations, the museum can now do so much more than ever,” she adds.

“It’s really a wonderful resource for the state, and I’m happy to be able to support the experience it provides.”

The Connecticut Museum of Natural History is slated for future expansion, thanks to a gift from Julia B. Budney.
The Connecticut Museum of Natural History is slated for future expansion, thanks to a gift from Julia B. Budney.
Photo by Peter Morenus

The museum reaches more than 50,000 people annually through visits to the facility and exhibit loans to dozens of related organizations.

It also houses the Connecticut Office of State Archaeology and the Connecticut Archaeology Center, and coordinates many efforts, such as the Stone Wall Initiative.

The museum re-opened in April, following the first phase of extensive renovation to add classrooms and exhibition space.

The recent improvements, which tripled the museum’s square footage, were funded by nearly $500,000 in donations from hundreds of committed members and matching funds from the state through the 21st Century UConn program.

Museum director Leanne Kennedy Harty says the Budney gift will dramatically improve the museum’s operations and offerings going forward.

“This is such an exciting time for us,” she says. “Mrs. Budney’s gift allows us to celebrate this moment in time by launching the next phase of the museum’s history.”

The next phase includes a $4.5 million reconstruction plan to create a much-needed collections storage facility, an archaeology lab, and a library to house the Office of State Archaeology’s 8,000-volume holdings.

“Our focus is on making connections between cultural and natural history through time, and helping people look closer at those fascinating relationships,” Harty says.

“Mrs. Budney’s gift presents an opportunity to advance our mission and expand the programs and services we can provide, both on campus and across the state. This is what we’re all about.”

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