No place is more hidden than the so-called Whale Warehouse. The public only gets to see a carefully curated version of the collections at natural history museums.
Hidden from view, there’s a second museum, sprawling in scope, full of character and occasionally gross. No place is more hidden than the Whale Warehouse.
This nondescript building is home to thousands and thousands of specimens that are too big to fit on the shelves in the museum’s Mammalogy Department at the main campus.
The result is a macabre and odiferous private monument to the diversity of mammalian life on Earth.
Jim Dines, the mammalogy collections manager for the museum, is in charge of maintaining the sprawling collection and expanding it.
Officially, it’s the Marine Mammal Laboratory, but the museum staff call it the Whale Warehouse after its biggest residents.
The warehouse is home to all kinds of mammals, the branch of the animal kingdom with the capacity to grow the largest. The blue whale skull that covers a wide swath of the warehouse floor is the largest natural thing in the museum’s entire collection.
The collection is meticulously organized by catalog number from primitive to advanced. That system begins with monotremes, the most ancient mammals, and works its way up to human beings.
The museum is especially important for its collection of marine mammals, which trails only the Smithsonian Institution in size.
They have more than 4,000 dolphin skulls in the collection, and they use those skeletons to build exhaustive matrices that compare the nuances of dolphin characteristics and how they change over time.
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Sound Design by Stephanie Smith
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