Museum of Science Presents Whales Tohora, June 20 through September 14, 2010

May 17, 2010

—New Zealand-based exhibit blends science and storytelling to bring the world of whales to life—

BOSTON, May 17, 2010—This summer, New Englanders will have the chance to climb inside the heart of the largest living animal, stand before two massive skeletons—each longer than a school bus, and discover the latest scientific findings about the creatures that have intrigued, astounded, and inspired humankind throughout history, from the Atlantic Coast to the South Pacific.

On Sunday, June 20, the Museum of Science, Boston will open Whales | Tohorā , a new exhibit that will immerse visitors in the world of some of the planet's most fascinating and elusive creatures. The exhibit examines our relationship with whales through a blend of interactive science and cultural storytelling. For centuries, whales have captured our imaginations and ignited our emotions. Humans have revered and mythologized them, hunted them to the brink of extinction, and passionately protected them—but how much do we really know about whales? The exhibit aims to bring the mysterious underwater world of whales to surface, giving visitors a glimpse of the extraordinary lives led by whales—from some of the smallest dolphins to the blue whale, the mightiest creature on Earth.

With a focus on the whales of the South Pacific, this hands-on exhibit explores the biology of these magnificent mammals, including whale evolution, diversity, sounds, and reproduction. Created by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and sponsored by Boston Harbor Cruises, Whales | Tohorā features specimens from one of the world's largest collections of whales, which includes skeletons, fossils, whalebone, and fins. Visitors can listen to the sounds of different whales, view 58-foot long male and female skeletons of the sperm whale—the animal that inspired Melville's Moby Dick and boasts the largest brain of any living or extinct creature, engineer a virtual dolphin, and much more.

Whales | Tohorā also tells rich cultural stories of the relationships between people of the South Pacific and whales. Visitors will explore this complex relationship by "meeting" some of the people whose lives have been inextricably linked to whales, including legendary whale riders, scientists, and former whaling families. From early whaling and trading among the Maori and Pakeha people, to their dedicated efforts to protect whales, the exhibit examines the history and changing attitudes toward whaling in the South Pacific. Visitors will learn about natural and human-related threats to whales around the world and discover what they can do to help protect these magnificent mammals.

Exhibit highlights include:

  • The Whale Lab: Featuring specimens, skeletons, and state-of-the-art interactives, the Whale Lab invites visitors to explore the biology of whales. Visitors can build a virtual, robotic dolphin using different body shapes, fins, flippers and tails. Then they'll test their design by releasing their dolphin along a set course.
  • Colossal Whale Skeletons: Observe up close two articulated sperm whale skeletons, one male, and one female. Globally, sperm whales are the most widespread of the whale species. Visitors will view skulls from 12 different beaked whale species—some of the most unknown large animals in the sea, plus a skeleton of the rare Pygmy right whale. Guests can glimpse the evolution of whales by observing casts of early fossil whale skeletons and skulls, including the skull of a 38 million year-old Zygorhiza, a basilosaurid from New Zealand.
  • Scale Models and Touch Table: See scale models of a wide range of whales, from the mighty Blue whale to the Hector's dolphin, the smallest of the whale family. Climb inside a life-size model of a blue whale heart and visit the Touch Table to touch the vertebra and rib of a fin whale. A variety of interactives allow visitors to explore whale anatomy and discover how different whale species feed plus how to identify different families of whales.
  • History of Whaling in New Zealand: Learn about the history of whaling and changing attitudes from Maori, former whalers, conservation staff, and researchers.
  • Whale Riders Theater Experience: In an immersive theater inspired by the film, Whale Rider, visitors experience three whale-riding stories from different iwi (tribes) in New Zealand.
  • Sound Chamber: The ability to produce and perceive sound is important for whales to navigate, find food, and communicate. Hear the variety of sounds made by whales—throaty rumbles, melodious phrases, squeaks, whistles, clicks, and buzzes.
  • Taonga (Maori treasures): See precious adornments and deadly weapons crafted from whale bones and teeth by the artisans of New Zealand, Fiji, and the Marquesas Islands. Also view exquisite bone artwork carved by contemporary South Pacific artists.
  • Strandings and Other Threats to Whales: Examine natural and human-related threats to whales, including strandings and why they occur. Through Dolphin Danger, a game-based computer interactive, visitors can help "Hemi," a Hector's dolphin, swim safely through various threats in the ocean so he can reunite with the rest of his pod in a marine mammal preserve. Guests learn about what they can do to help protect whales.

Whales | Tohorā will be presented at the Museum of Science from June 20 through September 14, 2010. Whales | Tohorā was 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 and the Smithsonian Institution. Presenting Sponsor: Boston Harbor Cruises. Admission to Whales | Tohorā is included with regular Exhibit Halls admission: $20 for adults, $18 for seniors (60+), and $17 for children (3-11). For more information, the public can call 617/723-2500, (TTY) 617/589-0417, or visit mos.org.

Press Contacts

Sofiya Cabalquinto: 617-589-0251; scabalquinto@mos.org or Lauren Crowne: 617-589-0250

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