Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History Ocean Hall Receives $15 Million Endowment
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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has received a $15 million gift from the Roger and Victoria Sant Founders’ Fund of the Summit Fund of Washington to support the new Ocean Hall and related programs and outreach activities. The exhibition hall, scheduled to open Sept. 27, will be named the Sant Ocean Hall in honor of the donor. The fund will be used for updating and maintaining the exhibition and supporting ocean education.
The current gift and the naming of the hall were approved by the Smithsonian Board of Regents. Roger Sant is chairman of the Regents, and did not participate in the voting. This brings the Sants’ total support to the Smithsonian’s ocean initiative to $25 million. They provided $10 million in 2005 to establish the Sant Chair for Marine Science.
“We are extremely grateful to Roger and Vicki Sant for this gift and their continued support for ocean research and education at the Smithsonian,” said Cristián Samper, Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. “This endowment will enable the Smithsonian to launch exciting new programs to enhance public awareness of ocean conservation issues and the vital role the ocean plays in our daily lives. In recognition of Roger and Vicki’s extraordinary generosity, we are proud to name the new hall in their honor.”
“The Smithsonian Institution is uniquely positioned to not only bring the message of ocean literacy to new audiences, but also to have a positive impact on how we manage ocean resources,” said Roger Sant. “Through its world-class research and unparalleled collections, the Smithsonian will be able to help us understand the role we all can play in preserving the ocean for generations to come.”
Located in the museum’s newly restored central hall, the new 23,000-square-foot Sant Ocean Hall is the centerpiece of the Smithsonian’s new Ocean Initiative, which focuses on bringing international attention to the complexity and importance of the ocean. The Sant Ocean Hall was created in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and depicts the ocean’s history and its importance in contemporary society. Traditional mounted specimens and exhibits are paired with innovative technology, providing a thorough and original experience.
“As a steward of our ocean resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is committed to educating the public about the importance of the ocean to our nation, our economy and our future,” said Retired Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of NOAA. “Our partnership with the Smithsonian in creating the Sant Ocean Hall is one of our proudest achievements. We believe the new hall, with its dynamic educational programs, will have a lasting effect on the lives of millions of museum visitors.”
Roger and Vicki Sant live in Washington, D.C., and Roger Sant has been a member of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents since 2001 and is currently chair of the board. In May 2001, the Sants received the James Smithson Society Founder’s Medal recognizing their contributions to the Institution.
Roger Sant is co-founder and chairman emeritus of the AES Corporation, a leading global power company. Vicki Sant is president of the National Gallery of Art and a member of its board of trustees. She is president of the Summit Foundation, a former trustee of Stanford University and a former member of the Smithsonian Washington Council’s executive committee.
One of the Sant Ocean Hall’s major themes is that 71 percent of the Earth is covered by one vast, interconnected body of water—the ocean. The hall offers an exciting opportunity to learn about this large and complex ecosystem, from the deepest reaches of the ocean to the microscopic life underfoot at the beach. The hall will feature a set of 7-foot-tall prehistoric shark jaws and a model of a 45-foot-long North Atlantic right whale named “Phoenix,” suspended from the hall’s more than 4-story-high ceiling. “Ocean Odyssey,” a breathtaking videotape of high-definition underwater footage by Feodor Pitcairn, will be shown on the walls of the exhibition’s central space. The hall is also one of only two places in the country to display a complete giant squid specimen—the one at the Sant Ocean Hall is the largest at 24 feet long.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, located at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C., is dedicated to studying and preserving the world’s most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artifacts. The National Museum of Natural History’s summer hours are from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily through Aug. 31. Admission is free. More information about the museum is available at www.mnh.si.edu.
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