Explore The Legends Of The Sea At The Whaling Museum

The Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor will be unveiling a new exhibit in October that will be featuring ocean-inspired mythology and artwork.

The Whaling Museum & Education Center announced last month that the special exhibit, titled Monsters and Mermaids: Legends of the Sea, will be displayed in its gallery for the next two years. The project will explore ocean-inspired myths and their influence. It is the first exhibit in 13 years to explore Long Island’s connection to such kinds of folklore.

The exhibit will be held in the museum’s vibrant space and, as always, its special exhibitions are curated for both children and adults. By delving into the fantastical elements of coastal life, the exhibits are accessible to all ages. 

A guided tour of the museum’s gallery. (Photo from the Whaling Museum website)

Since its founding in 1932, the museum aims to commemorate local history and serve its community. Monsters and Mermaids is no different, and the exhibit will showcase select pieces from the museum’s 6,000 item collection.

The Monsters and Mermaids exhibition will be open for two years, and in that time, patrons will be invited to participate in interactive aspects of the museum. 

“There is this fascinating history of how whales and many other ocean creatures were viewed through quite a different lens by multiple people through thousands of years,” Nomi Dayan, executive director of the museum, said.

The Whaling Museum’s recent acquisition of ships in a bottle donated by the Kappel family. (Photo from the Whaling Museum website)

Although there is now an appreciation for the beauty and uniqueness of ocean life, this was not always the case. The scientific name for the order of whales, “cetacean,” translates to “sea monster.”

Despite the many differences of coastal civilizations throughout history, one commonality of them all is the presence of sea monster mythologies. As Long Islanders wander through the exhibition, they will learn to question how they have experienced and participated in these ideologies.

A highlight of the exhibit comes from the Greenport-based artist Cindy Roe, who has been commissioned to create a suspended full-size kraken sculpture. The piece will be created out of plastic marine debris collected from Long Island. The community is encouraged to contribute by donating any red or orange plastics they gather.

“By engaging the community to help collect materials for the Kraken, together, we’re reclaiming ownership and responsibility for our oceans, reshaping the narrative from fear to collective action and stewardship,” Roe said.

One of the items that the museum hosts, which is a 1839 print of a Kraken attacking a ship. (Photo from the Whaling Museum)

Roe has been featured in a number of worldwide exhibitions, and much of her artwork focuses on her connection to the sea. The Whaling Museum welcomes this Long Island-based artist and encourages patrons to donate their plastics to her project. 

In addition to Roe’s commission, the exhibit will feature maps, prints and specimens exploring the folklore of merpeople, whales, sirens and other legends.

The museum is excited to announce that the exhibit will house the 1986 diorama by artist Vincent P. Ciro titled “Ye Dam’n Whale,” which depicts a scene from Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

There will be interactive and participatory aspects of the exhibition as well. With prompted topics and questions, adults and children will be able to converse and engage with the material, as well as contribute to the lively culture of the museum.

One of the items that the museum hosts, which is a 1839 print of a Kraken attacking a ship. (Photo from the Whaling Museum)

There will be film reels showcasing merpeople in cinema, in addition to a “true/false” game about some of the legends displayed. There will be a complimentary craft table for children to enjoy as well.

“We chose this for a number of reasons,” Dayan said. “In the past, our exhibition topics were chosen to highlight the experiences of historically marginalized people and perspectives, and we are doing that under the umbrella of mythology.”

Although the exhibition features mythological figures, the pieces carry meaningful social commentary, and visitors are encouraged to connect these legends to their own life.

The exhibit will open this October, and the museum will offer an additional schedule of programs (including talks, crafts, etc.) related to the exhibition for patrons interested in delving deeper into the topic.

Visit for more information on how to donate to Roe’s piece and for more information on the exhibit.

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