David H. Koch has resigned from the board of the American Museum of Natural History in New York after serving as a trustee for 23 years. Koch, an industrialist and noted arts patron (the Metropolitan Museum’s new plaza in New York was recently named for him), stepped down at a board meeting in December.
An open letter from scientists and climatologists published last March urged science museums across the country to cut ties with Koch, whom the letter described as “one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.” A petition to “kick Koch off the board” had gathered hundreds of thousands signatures. The AMNH has not yet responded to a request for comment, but a spokeswoman told the New York Times that “his departure was not related to the criticism, but simply because his term was ending,” a point likewise communicated to the Times by a spokeswoman for Koch.
Beka Economopoulos, the director of the Natural History Museum, a “mobile museum that highlights the socio-political forces that shape nature,” which sponsored the letter and petition, said in a statement: “His departure is a victory for the scientists, climate activists, and museum professionals who have been calling for museums to break ties with Koch and other fossil fuel interests…Regardless of official explanations, it is undeniable that Koch’s board position was the cause of great controversy over the last year.”
UPDATE, 1/21/2016, 11:30 a.m.: Roberto Lebron, the AMNH’s senior director of communications, sent the following statement on behalf of the museum: “David Koch’s term on the Board of the American Museum of Natural History ended on December 9, 2015, at the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees. This change was one of several that took effect at the meeting as part of the normal course of business.”