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Barnes Family Foundation donates $2 million to the Museum of Life and Science

For Immediate Release – March 2, 2023 | 10 am

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Matt Pusateri, Senior Director of Marketing
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Lee and Christy Barnes
Lee and Christy Barnes at the dedication event for the new Barnes Welcome Hall


DURHAM, N.C. — The Museum of Life and Science is thrilled to announce the generous donation of $2 million from the Barnes Family Foundation — the largest single gift from a private donor in the Museum’s eight-decade history.

The Barnes Family Foundation’s generous donation will support renovations and maintenance to the new Barnes Welcome Hall and help the Museum continue to deliver high-quality educational experiences for visitors. It will also create a permanent endowment that will support the Museum’s ongoing growth and improvement, summer camp scholarships, and expand its outreach to underserved families in the Triangle

“The Museum is more than a place to learn, it’s also a place to find belonging and collaboration, especially among young people,” said Lee Barnes. “The Museum inspires creativity in toddlers, kindergarteners, and elementary school kids. And hopefully, that can turn into innovation in high school and beyond. As adults, they can expand our collective knowledge and conduct original research that may change the world for the better.”

“Encouraging people to go into STEM fields is so important today,” Barnes said. “And it can start right here at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science.”

Barnes, a longtime Durham community member and business owner who frequently brought his children to the Museum, made the donation on behalf of the Barnes Family Foundation.

“We thank the Barnes Family Foundation for their historic gift,” said Carrie Heinonen, CEO of the Museum of Life and Science. “This gift will fuel our ability to ensure that the Museum remains a vital cultural resource for the Triangle community that educates and inspires families from across the state.”

To celebrate the donation and thank the Barnes Family Foundation, the Museum of Life and Science hosted a special reception on Friday, February 24, to unveil the new “Barnes Welcome Hall” at the Museum.

The Museum has made a deliberate effort to enhance its fundraising efforts in recent years, and this leadership gift reflects the Museum’s focus on philanthropy. We continue to look for new ways to partner with individuals and businesses who share the Museum’s commitment to science, education, and outdoor learning.

“We are deeply grateful for the Barnes Family Foundation’s support,” said Heinonen. “Their gift will make a lasting impact on the Museum and the communities we serve. We hope that it ushers in a new era of philanthropy at the Museum of Life and Science.”



About the Museum of Life and Science

Located less than five miles from downtown Durham, the Museum of Life and Science is one of North Carolina’s top family destinations. Our 84-acre campus includes a two-story science center, one of the largest butterfly conservatories on the East Coast, and beautifully landscaped outdoor exhibits. Our interactive experiences include Dinosaur TrailEllerbe Creek RailwayHideaway WoodsInto the MistEarth Moves, and Aerospace, which features one of the largest collections of Apollo-era NASA artifacts in the state. The Museum is also an AZA-accredited zoo, home to rescued black bears, lemurs, endangered red wolves, and more than 60 species of live animals. Last year, the Museum celebrated its 75th anniversary and its ongoing commitment to the communities of Durham, the Triangle, and North Carolina. To learn more, visit