Whales: From Bone to Book

The Smithsonian Libraries opened its new exhibition "Whales: From Bone to Book" in the National Museum of Natural History on May 25, 2013. This exhibition is a joint production of the Libraries and the Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History. "Bone to Book" will be on display on the ground floor through April 2014.

Studying natural history is about discovering objects in the natural world and translating their meaning into scientific knowledge. "Whales: From Bone to Book" traces the fascinating journey of how Smithsonian scientists study the largest and most intelligent mammals on the planet: whales. This story describes how the bones and fossils of these amazing animals make their way from discovery on a beach or in rock strata, to the museum's doors and into its vast collections, and finally to sharing new knowledge about the natural history of whales, past, present and future.

Whales are among the unlikeliest of mammals. They are mammals with ancestors who lived on land, but they now spend 99 percent of their lives underwater. Scientists still have much to learn about their natural history, even as humans have hunted many whale species to the brink of extinction.

The Smithsonian has been studying whales since the 1850s, and its collections of modern and fossil whale specimens in the National Museum of Natural History are unmatched in the world. Teams of Smithsonian scientists, researchers, and illustrators continue this legacy of investigation, collecting whale bones, placing them in the museum for study, and publishing their findings.

The Smithsonian Libraries is part of this process, housing the world's best collection of resources about marine mammals – from centuries-old books to electronic journals that publish the latest discoveries by Smithsonian researchers.