Whales Today

Exhibition Dates: September 28, 2017 – December 2018

View the current Whales Today Exhibition here.

This exhibition was the first installation of a major expansion of Whales Today, the Museum’s whale ecology, ocean health, and marine mammal conservation exhibition. The Museum presented the Stewards of the Sea: Defending Freedom, Protecting the Environment interactive exhibit (on loan for a limited time from the U.S. Navy).

On view was the fascinating equipment, donated or loaned by the U.S. Navy and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), used by marine mammal scientists to capture sounds and other data to better understand these magnificent mammals and their habitat. Included in the exhibition was the Museum’s William A. Watkins Collection of Marine Mammal Sound Recordings and Data and the William A. Watkins and William E. Schevill Collection of Images and Instruments.

Visitors were able to look through a “fish eye” telescope and see what Navy watch looks for when they scan the ocean surface for whales, watch blue whale tagging in action off the coast of Patagonia, and see an enormous, but stealthy, automated underwater glider.

This exhibition was presented in partnership with

Warfare Center US Navy Stewards of the Sea


This exhibition was made possible, in part, by the William M. Wood Foundation.


Whales, dolphins and porpoises, collectively known as cetaceans, are the subject of thousands of hours of research performed annually around the globe. Some researchers use innovative methods and equipment often working in unpredictable conditions. Others pore through historical records to mine them for data. Their collaborative work has informed and enhanced whale conservation efforts by helping shape laws and treaties established to protect whales.

Questions about current scientific study of whales are on the minds of many of our visitors. This exhibition seeks to answer some common inquiries. The story of human interactions with whales would be incomplete without discussing today’s scientific work and the changes made in fishing practices to protect cetaceans.

Located on the mezzanine level of the Jacobs Family Gallery, the exhibit is in full view of our skeletons, which provide an excellent context for this exhibition. Their presence leads to a variety of questions and starting points asked by our visitors: Why do we have skeletons on display? Why/how did these animals die? What are the other major survival threats to whales? What can we do about those threats, both legislatively and personally? How are they protected? What species are hunted now? Why should we care about the future of whale populations?

These links are provided to give you a chance to dig deeper into the research, technologies and data featured in the exhibition.

detail from interactive called "Hunt for Knowledge"

Finding and Identifying Whales

Are you curious about exactly how many species of whale, dolphin and porpoise swim our global ocean? Learn more about whales here.————


Survival Threats and Conservation Efforts

Learn about threats of ship collisions with North Atlantic Right Whales, conservation efforts, and the deadly impact of ocean sounds to cetaceans.

William Watkins portrait

Watkins / Schevill Collections

Learn more the founders of marine mammal bioacoustics – William Watkins and his collaborator of almost 40 years, William Schevill. Links are available to a finding aid and sound recordings.——

Protective Measures for Whales

Protective Measures

Information on the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, signed in 1946 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.——

Whale Watch

Fascinating Facts

A video explains how ambergris is made, and how to do a quick test to find out if your beach discovery is indeed ambergris… plus more fun facts.


Sample from the Whales Today Audio Guide

Add depth and understanding to your visit. Rent the Audio Guide player at the Museum’s admission desk.

#WhalesToday Tweets

Top Banner Photo Credit: (detail) Two humpback whales engaging in bubble-net feeding. (Acquired under National Marine Fisheries Service Permit 17355-01 and NOAA Class G Notification 2015-ESA-4-NOAA flight authorization, by John Durban, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, NOAA; and Michael Moore, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution).