Cleveland Museum of Natural History Exhibition Explores World of Whales

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History presents Whales Tohora an interactive and immersive experience featuring the latest in international cetacean research. It will be on display Oct. 20, 2012 through Jan. 27, 2013.

Whales Tohorā’s unique blend of science, storytelling and innovative interactivity allows visitors to explore world of whales and learn about the cultural and spiritual connections to these mammals. The exhibition was developed and presented by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Featuring a massive 58-foot fully articulated sperm whale skeleton, Whales Tohorā showcases amazing and rare specimens from Te Papa’s whale collection, one of the largest in the world. Visitors will see life-size and scale models of whales common to the South Pacific, including a beaked whale skull created by Weta Workshop and ancient and contemporary whalebone treasures such as weapons and chiefly adornments. The intricacies of whale biology and the bloody history of whaling in New Zealand are examined, and visitors also have a unique opportunity to encounter whales through video portholes and be transported into their underwater world via two large immersive projections.

The Whale Lab is full of interactive science. Children can crawl through a life-size replica of the largest living creature’s heart—the blue whale. The extraordinary evolutionary journey of whales from land to the sea is shown by casts of fossil whale ancestors. Animated renderings of these early forebears show the transition of leaving the land and completely adapting to a life in the sea. Visitors can tune in to a range of whale sounds and discover how scientists and amateur trackers identify individual whales on their migration through the Pacific Ocean. The Whale Lab also features ‘Search & Destroy’, an experience that takes visitors to the ocean depths with a sperm whale on a hunt in search of giant squid, recreated from real data and sounds collected directly from a real sperm whale.

For centuries the people of the South Pacific have interacted with whales. A moving film experience, alongside a model whale head from the movie Whale Rider, tells the stories of three whale-riding traditions in New Zealand, including the famous story of Paikea. The story of the chief Tinirau and his pet whale, Tutunui, is a tale of love and revenge recognized throughout the South Pacific and brought to life in a stunning stand-alone animated movie.

Early whaling in New Zealand provided many trading opportunities between Mäori and Pakeha. These encounters punctuate the history of the New Zealand whale trade and are illustrated by objects such as harpoons, scrimshaw (whale tooth carvings) and mäori taonga (treasures). The exhibition demonstrates a nation’s change in attitude towards whaling, from a whaling nation to one renowned for its ecotourism and anti-whaling stance, told though emotional first-person interviews and graphic imagery.

Whalebone and teeth have long been a material of great value for objects of status, adornment and warfare. Ancient and rare taonga such as jewellery and weaponry from the South Pacific are stunningly displayed in a special storehouse; contemporary works by Mäori artists complement interviews and information about the value to indigenous peoples of whale stranding events in New Zealand today.

New Zealand is known internationally for the number of whale strandings along its coastline every year. These incidents can provide invaluable opportunities for scientists to research whale biology and also provoke an emotional community response to assist stranded creatures back into the water. The exhibition presents graphic imagery of stranding incidents in New Zealand and the sometimes opposing responses to the strandings.

The Museum is located at 1 Wade Oval Drive in University Circle. For Museum information, call 216-231-4600 or 800-317-9155 or visit