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$25-Million Gift to Museum Announced

Annenberg Foundation donation will help L.A. science center expand.

September 04, 2003|Cara Mia DiMassa | Times Staff Writer

The Annenberg Foundation is giving $25 million for the expansion of the California Science Center, officials at the Exposition Park museum announced Wednesday. The plan includes an adjacent school, now under construction, that will stress science.

Wallis Annenberg, vice president of the family foundation started by her late father, publishing executive Walter Annenberg, previously gave $6 million to the museum.

The total of $31 million represents "a really significant milestone," said Science Center President and Chief Executive Jeffrey Rudolph, "in terms of the scale of the gift, and how it speaks to the recognition of the science center here."

The facility, formerly called the Museum of Science and Industry, was opened in 1998 after a $130-million face lift. It is a regular stop on the school field-trip circuit, attracting more than a million visitors each year with such exhibits as a 40-foot animatronic model of a woman.

The expansion calls for a doubling of the center's World of Ecology space and a modernization of its historic Armory Building, which will be renamed the Wallis Annenberg Building for Science Learning and Innovation.

The former National Guard structure near Exposition Boulevard and Figueroa Street, which has been closed more than 10 years, is being redesigned by architect Thom Mayne, with additions for the elementary school, a community learning center, teacher training facilities and an open-air space.

The school, designed to serve 700 students, is a partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the museum. It is slated for completion next year.

District officials said its $57-million cost is mainly being funded by local bonds.

Annenberg is the co-chair of the science center's $140-million capital expansion campaign, which was launched two years ago. So far, the campaign has raised about $77 million, including her gift.

Annenberg said that she was attracted to the center because it combines teacher training and student education.

"We are going to take our science museum in Los Angeles to a level that no other science center can match," she said. "I hope this initiative will have national implications and that other science museums will take a more active part in supporting scientific practices in school classrooms."

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