Pittsburgh Science Center announces name change after $65 million gift
The Carnegie Science Center announced Tuesday it will have a new name and — eventually — a new look after receiving an unprecedented gift from two local philanthropists.
Daniel and Carole Kamin have given $65 million to the North Side-based Center, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. The Center will be renamed the Daniel G. and Carole L. Kamin Science Center in their honor. Center director Jason Brown said the facility will use the funds to upgrade its galleries, exhibits and physical plant, along with ensuring its financial future.
“This gift marks the largest monetary gift since the founding of Carnegie Museums in 1895,” Brown said at the gift’s public announcement, which took place at the Center. He called the gift “transformational” for the Center.
By way of comparison, the gift is nearly $10 million more than the $55.5 million it will take this year to operate all four Carnegie Museums combined.
The Kamins are longtime supporters of the Carnegie Museums. Other recent gifts included $5 million they gave in 2016 to endow the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s director position. Carole Kamin is an emeritus member of the Museum of Natural History advisory board and a long-time member of the Museum of Art's Women's Committee.
Daniel Kamin, a Pittsburgh native who made his fortune in commercial real estate, traces his love of the Science Center back to a boyhood passion for astronomy fostered at the Center’s precursor, the Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
Kamin said he grew up asking questions like, “Where does space end? How can it end? How can it be infinite? And the second question was, when does time begin?”
He acknowledged he has yet to find an answer to either query. But the telescope he built as a teenager at the Buhl, some 65 years ago, was on display at Tuesday’s press event as a testament to his decades-long interest in astronomy. There was also a photo of the moon he shot using the telescope, with its 6-inch reflecting mirror.
The Buhl was founded in 1939 in the building now occupied by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. In 1991, it became part of the Carnegie Museums and was renamed the Carnegie Science Center.
The Science Center is known for both its long-term exhibits, like “Mars: The Next Giant Leap,” for touring shows like the current “TITANIC: The Artifact Exhibition.” It also boasts the Highmark SportsWorks, the Rangos Giant Cinema movie theater and interactive displays on water, the human body, building science and more, geared toward young visitors.
Last year, the Center welcomed about 476,000 on-site visitors.
Brown said the Center’s current endowment is about $13 million, small for an organization its size. The Kamins’ gift will allow the Center to roughly quintuple that endowment, Brown said, and the resulting investment income will facilitate big changes, including “improvements in our galleries [and] improvements in our physical space, things that show our staff how valued they are.
“It will allow us to implement our vision not only for today’s generation but for generations to come,” he said.