Fernbank Museum is thrilled to be hosting the special exhibit Whales: Giants of the Deep (on view through August 24). It is absolutely breathtaking, and really allows viewers to understand the vastness of these massive creatures and their cultural significance to people of the South Pacific.
That said, perhaps the best part about this exhibit is the significance that it holds for the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori.
The Maori and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa worked closely together to create this exhibit from artifacts that have long belonged to the Maori people. This exhibit introduces visitors to these magnificent animals, as well as the importance of whales to so many of the people in the South Pacific.
Patrons looking at Maori artifacts
It has been an honor for the employees here at Fernbank to experience such a huge part of the Maori culture. In fact, when the exhibit first came to us, we all got the chance to meet the Maori collections manager, Mark Sykes.
Sykes was an integral part of the installation process, but he also came to say a prayer over all of the objects in the exhibit. He has met the whales at many of their museum stops, his purpose is to make sure the spirits of the wales, and other exhibit pieces, are at peace.
Fernbank and Te Papa employees working hard to assemble the skeletons
At each museum, before the exhibit is broken down for travel, a Maori collection manager has come out to say a blessing over the whales that allows their spirits to rest as employees begin the long process of breaking down the exhibit. As the objects from the exhibit arrive at their next stop, Skyes says another blessing to wake them up and introduce them to their new temporary home.
The Evolution of Whales
Fernbank employees were allowed the privilege of participating in the blessing of the whales as they arrived at our Museum. It’s safe to say that everyone left with a deeper understanding of how important these creatures are to the Maori people. What may look like skeletons to the rest of us, embodies the spirit of the very culture that the Maori hold so dear.
58-foot-long Sperm Whale Skeleton
As you come visit this special exhibit, keep in mind the cultural significance that is so deeply engrained in these majestic creatures.
—Brittany Loggins, Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator