Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

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Model of a Blue Whale in the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life

The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life is a large exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It focuses on marine biology, botany and marine conservation. The hall is most famous for its 94-foot (29 m)-long[1] blue whale model, suspended from the ceiling behind its dorsal fin. The hall's classic lines and visually arresting elegance host cutting-edge exhibition technology and the latest scientific research on the ocean. The 29,000-square-foot Hall has been transformed into a fully immersive marine environment with high-definition video projections, interactive computer stations, hands-on models, 14 renovated classic dioramas, and eight new ocean ecosystem displays that transport visitors from the rainbow-hued profusion of life in the Indo-Pacific coral reefs to the flickering bioluminescence of fishes in the eerie darkness of the deep sea.

The exhibit was first created by the AMNH Exhibitions Lab in 1933, was renovated in 1969 and once again in 2003 through funding provided by Paul and Irma Milstein.


In 1910, American Museum of Natural History President Henry F. Osborn proposed the construction of a large building in the museum's southeast courtyard to house a new Hall of Ocean Life in which "models and skeletons of whales" would be exhibited. This proposal to build in the courtyard marked a major reappraisal of the museum's original architectural plan. Calvert Vaux had designed the Museum complex to include four open courtyards in order to maximize the amount of natural light entering the surrounding buildings. In 1969, a renovation gave the hall a more explicit focus on oceanic megafauna in order to paint the ocean as a grandiose and exciting place. The key component of the renovation became the addition of a lifelike blue whale model to replace a popular steel and papier-mâché whale model that had hung in the Biology of Mammals hall. Richard Van Gelder, oversaw the creation of the hall in its current incarnation.[2] The hall was renovated once again in 2003 this time with environmentalism and conservation being the main focal points. Paul Milstein was a legendary real estate developer, business leader and philanthropist and Irma Milstein is a long-time Board member of the American Museum of Natural History. The 2003 renovation included refurbishment of the famous blue whale, suspended high above the 19,000 square foot exhibit floor, updating of the 1930s and 1960s dioramas and new displays were linked to schools via state-of-the-art technology.[3]


Upper level "boxed ecosystem" of the continental shelf.
The famous diorama of a giant squid and sperm whale in combat.

The upper level of the hall exhibits the vast array of ecosystems present in the ocean. Dioramas compare and contrast the life in these different settings including polar seas, kelp forests, mangroves, coral reefs and the bathypelagic. It attempts to show how vast and varied the oceans are while encouraging common themes throughout.

The lower, and arguably more famous, half of the hall consists of several large dioramas of larger marine organisms. It is on this level where the famous "Squid and the Whale" diorama sits, depicting a hypothetical fight between the two creatures.[4]

Other notable exhibits in this hall include the Andros Coral Reef Diorama, which is the only two-level diorama in the Western Hemisphere.[5]

The Blue Whale[edit]

One of the most famous icons of the museum, the fiberglass sculpture is a life-sized model of a ninety-four foot long Atlantic blue whale. The whale was redesigned dramatically in the 2003 renovation: its flukes and fins were readjusted, a navel was added, and was repainted from a dull gray to various rich shades of blue.


  1. ^ Retrieved October 2, 2010[dead link]
  2. ^ "History of the Hall of Ocean Life". American Museum of Natural History. 
  3. ^ "Rescuing the Diorama From the Fate of the Dodo", by Glenn Collins, New York Times, February 3, 2003
  4. ^ "The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life". American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  5. ^ Retrieved October 2, 2010[dead link]

Coordinates: 40°46′54″N 73°58′25″W / 40.78158°N 73.97366°W / 40.78158; -73.97366