Baleinopolis: The Secret Societies of Cetaceans

Baleinopolis reveals the fascinating, complex social structures of cetaceans and how different species’ communities function to help them survive in the ocean. Designed by Studio Gang and developed in partnership with Olivier Adam, Professor of marine bioacoustics at the Sorbonne University, the exhibition brings together scientific and creative contributions from around the world, including the work of biologists, environmental advocates, artists, and graphic designers.

Synthesizing these contributions, the exhibition design creates an immersive space where visitors can engage with ongoing scientific research conducted over the last decade. Interactive objects and audio-visual content highlight the language, culture, and habits of four cetacean species: the humpback whale, sperm whale, killer whale, and dolphin.

Portraits of these charismatic mammals, rendered as one-to-one scale wall paintings, frame research on the societal structures of each species. Visitors learn about their unique family organizations, hunting methods, and modes of reproduction through videos from experts at the Marine Mammal Laboratory Program, Wild Dolphin Project, UNESCO, WWF, and others. Representing our human habitat, an island in the center of the room creates an acoustic environment where visitors can experience a series of cetacean soundscapes recorded by Professor Adam.

Accessible to all ages, the exhibition is designed to awaken the spirit of scientific discovery and build visitors’ awareness of contemporary issues concerning the ocean. Powerful new findings about how cetaceans are stronger when they live and work cooperatively challenge us to develop better ways of working together to protect and steward our shared earthly habitat, aquatic and terrestrial.

The central island represents the land from which humans use tools to study the four species. The topography is carved away to create space for visitors to discover artifacts from the museum’s collection or be immersed in Professor Adam’s sound recordings of whale songs.

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