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Whales Tour

On this free self-guided tour, discover fascinating whale specimens and related cultural artifacts displayed throughout the Museum.

Learn more about this marine mammal's biology, evolutionary history, and role in human culture online from the Whales: Giants of the Deep pages and the Museum's blog.

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Cetaceans

As cetaceans (the mammal group that includes whales, dolphins, porpoises) began moving from land to water about 55 million years ago, they evolved special adaptations including streamlined bodies, blowholes for nostrils, and loss of external hind limbs. Forelimbs became flippers. Note the similarity between the bones of flippers and the human hand.

Floor: 4th Floor | Exhibit Hall: Paul and Irma Milstein Hall of Advanced Mammals

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Māori Chief’s Pātaka

A particularly striking example of whale imagery can be found in the elaborately carved whales trimming the front gable of this Māori chief’s pātaka, or elevated storage house used for the safekeeping of food and cultural treasures. 

Floor: 3rd Floor | Exhibit Hall: Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples

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Māori Weapons Case

Among the treasures stored in a Māori chief’s pātaka, or storage house, might be patu, or clubs such as this one. In this display, the fiddle-shaped patu and a white teardrop-shaped one are made of whalebone. Clubs were also carved from wood, stone, and even jade. 

Floor: 3rd Floor | Exhibit Hall: Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples

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Nasca Ceramics and Textiles

An early Nasca ceramic trumpet and Nasca ceramic vessel bear the image and shape, respectively, of a mythic killer whale.

Floor: 2nd Floor | Exhibit Hall: Hall of South American Peoples

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Paracas Spear-Thrower

This Late Paracas (circa 100 BC) spear-thrower is made of whalebone, and the thumb rest was carved from a sperm whale’s tooth. A drawing in the Early Hunters case in the first section of this hall shows how hunters or warriors used these to propel spears with great speed, momentum, and accuracy.

Floor: 2nd Floor | Exhibit Hall: Hall of South American Peoples

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Southern South America

The Yaghan (Yámana) harpoons, bark canoe model, and miniature lean-tos in this section are among the oldest public exhibits in the Museum, dating from the original South American hall, which opened in 1907. 

Floor: 2nd Floor | Exhibit Hall: Hall of South American Peoples

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Wooden Whale

This small carved wood whale was collected in Siberia in 1901 by Russian ethnographer Waldemar Jochelson for the Museum’s Jesup North Pacific Expedition.

Floor: 2nd Floor | Exhibit Hall: Gardner D. Stout Hall of Asian Peoples

Great Canoe
Great Canoe

At 63 feet long, the seaworthy Great Canoe is one of the Museum's most popular artifacts. Built in the 1870s by the native people of the Northwest Coast, the canoe features design elements from different groups, notably the Haida and Heiltsuk.

Floor: 1st Floor | Exhibit Hall: Grand Gallery

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Tlingit and Tsimshian Artifacts

This hall opened in 1899 under renowned anthropologist Franz Boas, who led the Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897–1902). One of Franz Boas’s most valued field collaborators was ethnologist George Hunt, son of a British trader and a Tlingit noblewoman. This ivory killer whale charm is Tlingit.

Floor: 1st Floor | Exhibit Hall: Hall of Northwest Coast Indians

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Nootka Shaman’s Rattle

This striking wooden rattle, consisting of many small whales, was collected by Fillip Jacobsen, a Norwegian journalist, on the west coast of Vancouver Island in 1897, the first year of the Museum’s Jesup North Pacific Expedition.

Floor: 1st Floor | Exhibit Hall: Hall of Northwest Coast Indians

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Kwakiutl Ceremonial Mask

The Kwakiutl are one of some 20 diverse communities known collectively as the Kwakwaka’wakw, united by a common language. In Kwakwaka’wakw mythology, animal imagery may indicate a close family association, even common ancestry, which confers supernatural powers and special privileges.

Floor: 1st Floor | Exhibit Hall: Hall of Northwest Coast Indians

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The Blue Whale

At 94 feet long, the fiberglass replica of a female blue whale is a Museum treasure. Blue whales have been hunted to near extinction. Today, the Museum's blue whale serves as a reminder of our responsibility to our environment, both on land and in the sea.

Floor: 1st Floor | Exhibit Hall: Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

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Whale Shark

Don’t be fooled by the “whale” in this animal’s common name: that’s a nod to the size of this species of shark. Sharks are not mammals, like whales, but are a group of fishes. Whale sharks, which can grow to more than 40 feet in length, are the world’s largest living fish.

Floor: 1st Floor | Exhibit Hall: Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

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Sperm Whale and Giant Squid

The squid and whale diorama depicts a sperm whale clashing with its prey, a giant squid. The giant squid had never been seen in its natural habitat until 2005, when researchers got footage of an adult giant squid in the wild.

Floor: 1st Floor | Exhibit Hall: Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

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Dolphin and Tuna Diorama

Did you know that dolphins—along with porpoises—are whales? In fact, the killer whale is the largest dolphin! Like other mammals, dolphins give birth to live young and breathe air, surfacing regularly to breathe through the blowhole on the top of their heads.

Floor: 1st Floor | Exhibit Hall: Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

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Hall of the Universe

Cullman Hall of the Universe

The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Hall of the Universe, located on the lower level of the Rose Center for Earth and Space, presents the discoveries of modern astrophysics. Divided into four zones, the hall covers the formation, evolution, and properties of stars, planets, galaxies, and the universe.

Food Court

Food Court

This is the food court.

Hall Cullman Hall of the Universe
Cafe Food Court
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Hall of Meteorites

Hall of Meteorites

The Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites explores essential questions about the origins of our solar system some 4.6 billion years ago by examining meteorites, rocky fragments from space that reveal clues about the formation and evolution of the Sun and planets.

Hall of Planet Earth

Hall of Planet Earth

The David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, the first part of the Rose Center to open in June 1999, displays an amazing collection of geological specimens, chosen specifically to show how our planet works.

Hall of Ocean Life

Hall of Ocean Life

The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life highlights the drama of the undersea world and its diverse and complex web of life in a fully immersive marine environment. The hall is home to one of the Museum’s most celebrated displays—a 94-foot-long, 21,000-pound model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling.

Hall of Human Origins

Hall of Human Origins

The Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins pairs fossils with DNA research to present the remarkable history of human evolution. The hall covers millions of years of human history, from early ancestors who lived more than six million years ago to modern Homo sapiens, who evolved 200,000 to 150,000 years ago.

Grand Gallery

Grand Gallery

The Museum has completed a major renovation of the historic 77th Street lobby that restores the grandeur of its original 1904 design and celebrates the preservation and revitalization of a century-old Museum icon—the 63-foot-long Great Canoe.

Grand Gallery

Hall of Minerals

The Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals presents hundreds of striking mineral-bearing specimens collected from around the world, including a giant topaz crystal from Brazil, a 4.5-ton block of azurite-malachite ore from Arizona, and a nephrite jade slab from Poland.

Hall of New York State Environment

Hall of New York State Environment

The Felix M. Warburg Hall of New York State Environment focuses on the village of Pine Plains and Stissing Mountain in New York’s Dutchess County, an area that includes mountains, natural lakes, forests, rock formations, and both wild and cultivated land. 

Hall of Northwest Coast Indians

Hall of Northwest Coast Indians

The Hall of Northwest Coast Indians highlights the traditional cultures of the native peoples of North America’s shores from Washington State to southern Alaska, including the Kwakiutl (known today as Kwakwaka’wakw), Haida, Tlingit, and others.

Hall of North American Forests

Hall of North American Forests

The Hall of North American Forests explores the ecology and variety of the forests of North America—from a northern spruce and fir forest of Ontario to a giant cactus forest in Arizona—in addition to highlighting the forest food web and presenting techniques for protecting forests.

Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals

Hall of North American Mammals

The Hall of North American Mammals features 28 dramatic examples of the large and medium-sized mammals of the North American continent in carefully re-created habitats.

Hall of Small Mammals

Hall of Small Mammals

The Hall of Small Mammals, which is an offshoot of the larger Hall of North American Mammals, depicts a variety of animals in small dioramas of their natural habitats, from the Canadian tundra to the brush country of southern Texas.

Cosmic Pathway

Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway

The Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway is a 360-foot-long path in the Rose Center for Earth and Space that spirals from the exit of the Hayden Big Bang Theater to the base of the Hayden Sphere, laying out the 13-billion-year history of the universe.

Discovery Room

Discovery Room

The Discovery Room offers families, and especially children ages 5–12, an interactive gateway to the wonders of the Museum and a hands-on, behind-the-scenes look at its science.

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Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall

The Exhibition Department is renovating, reinterpreting, and updating the first-floor Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall exhibitions for reopening in Fall 2012. 

Hall of Biodiversity

Hall of Biodiversity

The Hall of Biodiversity presents a vivid portrait of the beauty and abundance of life on Earth, highlighting both biodiversity and the factors that threaten it. Ecological biodiversity is illustrated by a 2,500-square-foot walk-through diorama that remakes part of the Dzanga-Sangha rain forest, one of Earth’s most diverse ecosystems.

Hall Hall of Meteorites
Hall Hall of Planet Earth
Hall Hall of Ocean Life
Hall Hall of Human Origins
Hall Grand Gallery
Hall Hall of Minerals
Hall Hall of New York State Environment
Hall Hall of Northwest Coast Indians
Hall Hall of North American Forests
Hall Hall of North American Mammals
Hall Hall of Small Mammals
Hall Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway
Hall Discovery Room
Hall Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals
Hall Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall
Hall Hall of Biodiversity
Hall Hall of Gems
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Hayden Big Bang Theater

Hayden Big Bang Theater

The lower half of the Hayden Sphere is home to the Hayden Big Bang Theater, where visitors can look down into a concave screen to view the Big Bang presentation, a dynamic flight through the virtual universe based on an accurate cosmic atlas mapped using millions of astronomical observations.

Hall of Mexico and Central America

Hall of Mexico and Central America

The Hall of Mexico and Central America features the diverse art, architecture, and traditions of Mesoamerican pre-Columbian cultures through artifacts that span from 1200 BC to the early 1500s.

Sanford Hall of North American Birds

Hall of Birds of the World

The Hall of Birds of the World showcases distinct environments around the world and the birds unique to those locations. Each of the hall’s 12 dioramas depicts a major biome—a region with a particular community of living things, such as a desert or tropical rainforest—along with representative species. 

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Hall of South American Peoples

The Hall of South American Peoples features the art, tools, technologies, and traditions of the continent’s pre-Columbian cultures—the ancient Inca, Moche, Chavin, and Chancay—in addition to exhibits about the traditional cultures of modern Amazonia. 

Hall of African Peoples

Hall of African Peoples

The Hall of African Peoples explores Africa's cultural heritage from ancient Egypt to more modern times. The hall highlights lifestyles and customs—many of them disappearing—of peoples living in four environments: grasslands, deserts, forests, and river regions.

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Hall of Asian Peoples

The Gardner D. Stout Hall of Asian Peoples—the Museum’s largest cultural hall—showcases some of the finest collections in Asian ethnology in the Western Hemisphere. Some 3,000 artifacts, which represent about 5 percent of the Museum’s considerable holdings, are displayed in the hall.

Akeley Hall of African Mammals

Hall of African Mammals

The Akeley Hall of African Mammals showcases large mammals of Africa. At the center is a freestanding group of eight elephants, poised as if to charge, surrounded by 28 habitat dioramas.

Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda

Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda

The Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda is New York's official memorial to the 26th President of the United States. In addition to leading expeditions for the Museum, Roosevelt championed environmental conservation.

Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda

Hall of Oceanic Birds

This hall's dioramas represent the bird life of the far-flung islands of the Pacific. These islands are geologically diverse, ranging from low coral to high mountains. One of the dioramas represents the bird population of the Guano Islands, named after the birds excretion, or guano, that coats the islands rocks.

Scales of the Universe

Scales of the Universe

Displayed along the 400-foot-long walkway that hugs the glass curtain wall on the second level of the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the Scales of the Universe vividly illustrates the vast range of sizes in the universe, from subatomic particles and objects on the human scale to the largest objects in the observable cosmos.

Cosmic Pathway

Cosmic Pathway

The Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway is a 360-foot-long path in the Rose Center for Earth and Space that spirals from the exit of the Hayden Big Bang Theater to the base of the Hayden Sphere, laying out the 13-billion-year history of the universe.

Hayden Planetarium

Hayden Planetarium

At the heart of the Rose Center for Earth and Space is an 87-foot-diameter sphere that appears to float inside a glass cube. Its upper half constitutes the Hayden Planetarium, which opened in 2000 along with the Rose Center for Earth and Space. It remains an enduring beacon of astrophysical education, as was its predecessor, which opened in 1935.

Hall of Asian Mammals

Hall of Asian Mammals

Between 1922 and 1928, Museum Trustee Arthur S. Vernay and British Colonel John C. Faunthorpe conducted six expeditions to collect animal specimens in India, Burma (now Myanmar), and Siam (now Thailand). The specimens were then donated to the Museum and formed the foundation for the Hall of Asian Mammals, which opened in 1930.

Hall Hayden Big Bang Theater
Hall Hall of Mexico and Central America
Hall Hall of Birds of the World
Hall Hall of South American Peoples
Hall Hall of African Peoples
Hall Hall of Asian Peoples
Hall Hall of African Mammals
Hall Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda
Hall Hall of Oceanic Birds
Hall Scales of the Universe
Hall Cosmic Pathway
Hall Hayden Planetarium
Hall Hall of Asian Mammals
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Hall of Pacific Peoples

Hall of Pacific Peoples

Anthropologist and longtime Museum curator Margaret Mead provided the foundation for the hall that bears her name through her groundbreaking expeditions to Samoa, New Guinea, and Bali.

Hall of Eastern Woodland Indians

Hall of Eastern Woodlands Indians

The Hall of Eastern Woodland Indians focuses on the traditional cultures of the Native American peoples living in the Eastern Woodlands of North America, including the Iroquois, Mohegan, Ojibwa, and Cree, through the early 20th century.

Hall of Primates

Hall of Primates

The Hall of Primates explores the mammalian order that includes apes, monkeys, and humans. Primates range in size from the pygmy marmoset to the gorilla, and include species that feed on insects, fruit, leaves, and sap.

Hall of North American Birds

Hall of North American Birds

The Leonard C. Sanford Hall of North American Birds features more than 20 dioramas that depict bird species in habitats ranging from the Florida Everglades to Alaskan riverbeds, with forest, prairie, marsh, and desert among the ecosystems represented.

Hall of New York State Mammals

Hall of New York State Mammals

The Hall of New York State Mammals introduces visitors to the diversity of local wildlife. Arranged in cased displays of discrete specimens, the hall presents a range of more than 50 land mammals—from shrews to bats, beavers to bobcats—and invites comparisons of their distinctive external features, such as fur, claws, ears, body shape, and size.

Hall of New York City Birds

Hall of New York City Birds

The Hall of New York City Birds showcases the rich diversity of birds in the greater New York area. The region attracts more than 400 species of birds because of its varied habitats—which include ponds and lakes, marshes and seashore, open meadows and wooded sections—and due to its location along major bird migratory routes.

Akeley Hall of African Mammals

Hall of African Mammals

The Akeley Hall of African Mammals showcases large mammals of Africa. At the center is a freestanding group of eight elephants, poised as if to charge, surrounded by 28 habitat dioramas.

Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians

Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians

The Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians explores the anatomy, defense, locomotion, distribution, reproduction, and feeding habits of reptiles and amphibians.

Hall of Plains Indians

Hall of Plains Indians

The Hall of Plains Indians focuses on the life of 19th-century Hidatsa, Dakota (Sioux), Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, and other Native American peoples of the North American Plains.

Hall of Plains Indians

Hayden Planetarium

At the heart of the Rose Center for Earth and Space is an 87-foot-diameter sphere that appears to float inside a glass cube. Its upper half constitutes the Hayden Planetarium, which opened in 2000 along with the Rose Center for Earth and Space.

Hall Hall of Pacific Peoples
Hall Hall of Eastern Woodlands Indians
Hall Hall of Primates
Hall Hall of North American Birds
Hall Hall of New York State Mammals
Hall Hall of New York City Birds
Hall Hall of African Mammals
Hall Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians
Hall Hall of Plains Indians
Hall Hayden Planetarium
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Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Orientation Center

Miriam and Ida D. Wallach Orientation Center

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Orientation Center introduces visitors to the key concepts presented in the Museum’s fourth floor fossil halls.

Hall of Vertebrate Origins

Hall of Vertebrate Origins

The Hall of Vertebrate Origins traces the evolution of vertebrates, or animals with backbones, back more than 500 million years.

Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs

Saurischian Dinosaurs

One of two halls in the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing, the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs features fossils from one of two major groups of dinosaurs. Saurischians are characterized by grasping hands, in which the thumb is offset from the other fingers. This hall features the imposing mounts of Tyrannosaurus rex and Apatosaurus.

Hall of Advanced Mammals

Milstein Hall of Advanced Mammals

The Paul and Irma Milstein Hall of Advanced Mammals is one of two halls in the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing of Mammals and Their Extinct Relatives, which together tell of the great diversification and sudden extinctions of this group of animals.

Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs

Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs

One of two halls in the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing, the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs features fossils from one of two major groups of dinosaurs.

Hall of Primitive Mammals

Hall of Primitive Mammals

The Hall of Primitive Mammals, one of two halls in the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing of Mammals and Their Extinct Relatives, traces the lower branches of the evolutionary tree of mammals, including monotremes, marsupials, sloths, and armadillos.

Hall Miriam and Ida D. Wallach Orientation Center
Hall Hall of Vertebrate Origins
Hall Saurischian Dinosaurs
Hall Milstein Hall of Advanced Mammals
Hall Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs
Hall Hall of Primitive Mammals

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Phone: 212-769-5100

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