The AMNH's Giant Blue Whale Just Got its Annual Cleaning

The iconic blue whale model that hangs in the American Museum of Natural History is the institution’s crowning jewel—and one that needs to be shined every once in a while.

The 94-foot-long fiberglass and polyurethane replica is getting its annual cleaning this week; a process that takes one man, two days, and a whole lot of vacuum power. When we stopped by on Wednesday morning (September 7), Trenton Duerksen was hard at work vacuuming the layer of dust that had accumulated on the whale over the course of the year. While he was largely focused on the animal’s head at the time, the entire 21,000-pound model will eventually get the soft brush treatment.

Aside from the annual dusting, the blue whale also received some comprehensive surgery when the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life was renovated in 2003. While it’s been an awe-inspiring display since its installation in 1969, the replica has had its issues. It’s hard to believe, but during the time when the project was conceived and executed, few people had seen a blue whale (the first full-body photos of a live animal wouldn’t be taken until the mid-1970s), so specimens from whalers had to be used as models. That led to bulging eyes and other inaccuracies in the shape and color of the mammal.

"In 1969 we’d walked on the moon, but no one knew what a blue whale looked like," said Melanie Stiassny, Axelrod Research Curator in the Museum’s Department of Ichthyology (a.k.a. fishes).

All that and more was corrected during the early aughts renovation (which Stiassny oversaw), so now the giant blue whale just needs an occasional cleaning.

Duerksen is a first-time blue whale duster, and while it might seem like a pretty straightforward job, a previous cleaner told us the task requires strong shoulders and arms, and a good sense of spatial reasoning. Well worth the effort to keep a New York landmark—and what it symbolizes—shining bright.

"It’s a denizen of the open ocean, it brings the whole ocean together," Stiassny said. "And everything on the planet depends on the open ocean."

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Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images
The 'David Bowie Is' Exhibition Is Coming to Your Smartphone
 Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images
Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images

"David Bowie is," an exhibition dedicated to the life, work, and legacy of the pop icon, concluded its six-year world tour on July 15. If you didn't get a chance to see it in person at its final stop at New York City's Brooklyn Museum, you can still experience the exhibit at home. As engadget reports, the artifacts displayed in the collection will be recreated in virtual and augmented reality.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, the curator of the exhibit, and the David Bowie Archive are collaborating with Sony Music Entertainment and the sound and media studio Planeta on the new project, "David Bowie is Virtual." Like the physical exhibition, the digital experience will integrate visual scenes with the music of David Bowie: 3D scans will bring the musician's costumes and personal items into the virtual sphere, allowing viewers to examine them up close, and possibly in the case of the outfits, try them on.

"These new digital versions of ‘David Bowie is’ will add unprecedented depth and intimacy to the exhibition experience, allowing the viewer to engage with the work of one of the world’s most popular and influential artists as never before," the announcement of the project reads. "Both the visual richness of this show and the visionary nature of Bowie and his art makes this a particularly ideal candidate for a VR/AR adaptation."

"David Bowie is Virtual" will be released for smartphones and all major VR and AR platforms sometimes this fall. Like the museum exhibition, it will come with an admission price, with a portion of the proceeds going toward the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Brooklyn Museum.

[h/t engadget]

Your New York City Library Card Now Gets You Free Admission to 33 Museums and Cultural Sites

Your New York City library card is good for more than checking out books and downloading music. Starting this summer, your card will get you free admission to 33 cultural institutions around the city, The New York Times reports.

New York's public library system is rolling out its Culture Pass program in an effort to make the city's world-renowned museums and cultural centers more accessible to residents. As long as you have a card from the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, or the Queens Library systems, you can visit and use your card number to reserve a ticket. Participating organizations include the the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, Wave Hill, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim Museum.

Some of the locations on the list are already free without the suggested donation, but others can get pricey. The Museum of Modern Art, for example, costs $25 for adults. Using Culture Pass does come with a few catches: Passes are limited, so if you wait until the last minute you may not be able to reserve one for your preferred day. Cardholders also can only use Culture Pass once per year at each institution, but depending on where they go they can make the most of it: At some organizations like the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, a pass is good for entry for up to four guests.

New York isn't the only area that offers free museum tickets to anyone with a library card. Members of public library systems in SeattleNew Jersey, and Los Angeles County, and kids in Chicago, can take advantage of similar programs. And even if your library card can't get you into cultural institutions, it can likely get you other perks you may not be aware of.

[h/t The New York Times]


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