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Spring's Special Exhibition Is Whales: Giants of the Deep

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Opening Saturday, March 23, a special exhibition, Whales: Giants of the Deep, will bring Museum visitors closer than ever to some of the mightiest, most massive, and mysterious mammals on Earth. 

Sperm Whale 2

Sperm whale

© Brandon Cole


Featuring life-size models, interactive exhibits, and films—as well as stunning whale skeletons—the family-friendly exhibition was originally developed at Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum of New Zealand. 

Maihi (Whales)

© Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2008

Reproduced with the generous support of Ngäti Konohi, 2007


In that Pacific nation, whales have long played a central role in human lives, and the exhibition reveals the history of that close relationship, from the traditions of Maori whale riders to the whaling industry and the later rise of laws protecting whales from commercial hunters. 

Bringing the exhibition to New York this spring also will allow for the addition of rarely viewed specimens from the Museum’s world-class paleontology and anthropology collections. Another addition, from the Museum Library's collections, is the logbook from a whaling ship that sailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1830. 

“We have the exciting opportunity to draw from our unique collections to select specimens that complement the wonderful stories already being told in this exhibit," says John Flynn, Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals, who is overseeing the exhibition at the Museum. 

More than 20 skulls and skeletons from various whale species, including a nearly 60-foot-long skeleton of a sperm whale, will allow visitors to explore whale anatomy and diversity. Interactive exhibits include one that re-creates the experience of depth-defying dives of sperm whales as they hunt for squid far below the ocean’s surface. In another section, visitors will learn about long-extinct Eocene “walking” whales, which left the land to invade the sea millions of years ago.

Developed and presented by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. This exhibition was made possible through the support of the New Zealand Government.

Generous support for Whales has been provided by the Eileen P. Bernard Exhibition Fund.

Whales: Giants of the Deep opens March 23, 2013, and will remain on view through January 5, 2014.

A version of this story appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine.

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