On September 25th, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. hosted a gala for the opening of their new permanent exhibit, the Sant Ocean Hall. Suspended from the ceiling above the center of the Hall is the focal point of the exhibit--a full size model of a North Atlantic right whale. It's an actual replica of a cataloged individual, a female named Phoenix. You can see photos and a history of Phoenix on the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog, search for catalog #1705.
Since 2004 Amy Knowlton and I have been working with the Smithsonian to make sure the model, and every other detail of information about right whales, is as accurate and up-to-date as possible. Because of that long relationship helping to develop that aspect of the exhibit Amy and I were invited to the black tie event, along with New England Aquarium Vice President of Research (and our fearless leader) Scott Kraus.
It was a great evening to see Phoenix and read all the information about right whales that we had spent years reviewing, and also to be the first (along with 1500 other guests) to see the exhibit. The Sant Ocean Hall is 23,000 square feet of fun facts and education about the world's most precious resource: the oceans that cover 71 percent of the earth's surface. The exhibit includes more than 650 marine specimens ranging from microscopic plankton to giant squid (and Phoenix, of course!) There are state of the art inter-active exhibits, video displays, and so much more than we could possibly see in the three hours we were there. We whale researchers, typically most comfortable in jeans, had to dress up and rub elbows with the elite of Washington. For some reason, we weren't featured in the New York social diary (scroll past first article) but as you can see we managed to look presentable!
Caption to group photo: The right whale group at the Smithsonian Ocean Hall opening. From right to left: Amy Knowlton, Bill McWeeny, Roz Rolland, Scott Kraus, Marilyn Marx and Jon Alberts (Marilyn's husband) photographer: Karen Steuer
Coming in our fall sponsorship newsletter we'll have an article about the creation of the model and our involvement in the project, as well as more about the opening itself. If you want to read more about it, here's the link to our sponsorship program.
For further information about the exhibit including images of Phoenix, check out the Smithsonian's Sant Ocean Hall page and read event reviews from the New York Times and the Washington Post.