August 12, 2013 by mtteaton
I recently wrote the following post for a class assignment, however the story of this blue whale model is so interesting, I thought I’d share it here too!
As the setting of the 2006 Hollywood film, Night at the Museum, New York City’s American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is an iconic institution. Hanging in the center of the Irma and Paul Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life is one of the museum’s most iconic features, a life-size blue whale model. Highlighting this impressive object, the AMNH says, “At 94 feet long, the 21,000-pound fiberglass model 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” (American Museum of Natural History, n.d., para. 1).
Though it may be a model, this object has quite an interesting history. Constructed in the mid-1960s, it was based on photographs taken in 1925 of a dead blue whale found on a South American coastline. Despite the detail found on this model, not much was known about blue whales at the time, since they had never been seen alive in their natural habitat.
The blue whale model made its public debut in 1969 amongst several exhibits focused on sea life. At the time, the model was considered as true to life as possible, however in 2001 it received a renovation to make it more realistic in appearance. Museum artists “had many photographs and footage of live whales on which to base their work. They flattened the model’s once-overly bulging eyes, accurately redesigned the whale’s blowholes, and tapered the tail” (American Museum of Natural History, 2013, para. 4).
The blue whale has become an icon of the AMNH, leading to many private events and a very popular children’s sleepover program, all held below the belly of the whale. Today, the whale can be viewed anytime the museum is open and can even be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NatHistoryWhale.
American Museum of Natural History. (2013). The museum’s blue whale model. Retrieved from http://www.amnh.org/explore/news-blogs/on-exhibit-posts/the-museum-s-blue-whale-model
American Museum of Natural History. (n.d.). The blue whale. Retrieved from http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/biodiversity-and-environmental-halls/milstein-hall-of-ocean-life/the-blue-whale
Soniak, M. (2012). How to build a blue whale without having seen one: Part II. Retrieved from http://mentalfloss.com/article/13077/how-build-blue-whale-without-having-seen-one-part-ii