Museum leaders around the country are being urged to reject philanthropic dollars from billionaire David H. Koch in an open letter this week signed by a group of prominent scientists and museum officials.
The letter, which was published online Tuesday, criticizes Koch for his ties to the oil industry and what those who signed it claim is his financial support for organizations that deny climate change.
Museums of science and natural history are urged to sever ties with Koch, with signers of the letter saying that the integrity of institutions would be compromised by their association with special interests who “obfuscate climate science.”
Koch is a trustee and longtime supporter of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He has donated extensively to cultural organizations around the country.
In 2012, Koch donated $35 million to the National Museum of Natural History for its dinosaur hall. He gave $15 million to the organization for its Hall of Human Origins, which opened in 2010 and carries the philanthropist’s name.
Seven years ago, Koch gave $100 million to renovate Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater, which was renamed after him.
Koch Industries is a diversified company whose interests include oil, natural gas, fertilizers and plastics. The Wichita, Kan.-based conglomerate is among the largest privately held companies in the U.S.
Environmental groups note that David Koch and his brother, Charles, have donated tens of millions of dollars to organizations that promote their political views and business interests.
Tuesday’s open letter states: “We believe that the only ethical way forward for our museums is to cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science obfuscation."
Among the signees is James Powell, a former president and director of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
An online petition is also circulating demanding that David Koch be removed from the boards of the National Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History.
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