Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Learning from History

August 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Learning from History title

When I look out towards the ocean, I’m always hoping to spot a whale or dolphin coming up for air. As someone keenly aware of the creatures around us, I know how precious and irreplaceable marine lives are, and I understand that humans are responsible for preserving their habitats and lives. However, for us to move ahead in a positive way towards helping our marine friends, we must learn about the past mistakes made by others in order to avoid making the same ones.

file000758102380 A couple of recent visits to The Whaling Museum & Education Center reinforced that lesson. Dr. Robert Cushman Murphy, a founder of the museum in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, started The Whale Foundation in 1936 and the museum in 1942. His legacy lives on with current museum director Nomi Dayan, who creates a vibrant maritime atmosphere that teaches children and adults history and inspires creativity and respect in them for the largest of sea dwellers.

Dayan has a tough job presenting the brutal history of man’s treatment of whales in a sensitive way. “The history of the whaling industry and its lessons are complex,” she says. “My greatest challenge is making learning about it fun.”

ExhibitThe historical exhibits at the museum showcase different cultures and their stories of struggle and survival in whaling. Through these exhibits, visitors learn about many historical aspects of this major maritime industry and see connections between the past and our present (a present devoid of so many whales wiped out by yesteryear’s seafarers). In addition to educational exhibits, the museum runs day camps, art programs, and other fun outreach programs to enlighten younger generations about the importance of caring for our waters and its precious marine life. Speakers at special museum events share how whales can be sustained through human action.

staff picThe museum staff and volunteers take pride in its sensitive and subtle ways of educating and creating tolerance, understanding, and awareness — qualities that hold out hope for more abundant marine wildlife in the future. Education manager Liz Fusco, who oversees much of what’s taught at the museum, adds her special artistic touch. “I enjoy working here, developing the educational programs, and especially experiencing the public interacting with everything.”

Amanda Vengroff, who oversees the Museum-to-You classroom outreach program, adds, “I love being able to share an important part of Long Island’s maritime history to students across the island, if it’s visiting the museum for a field trip or bringing the museum experience right into their classrooms.”

A volunteer, Peter Bongo, created a diorama of Cold Spring Harbor. Though he’s passed away, his handiwork from 1972 is so detailed and informative that it lives on for museum visitors (I think it would take hours for one person to take in the entirety of its elements).

whaling ship courtesy NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

Courtesy NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

The past and the present are shared, according to Dayan, because of a strong connection between the whaling industry’s past and how we see whales today. As recordings of whales were made in the 1970s, “the whaling industry triggered the conservation movement. The recording of the humpback whales had a huge impact on how humans saw whales,” she notes.

Museum visitors and boaters both value conservation efforts in order to ensure that younger  generations will marvel at whales in their habitats, rather than extract them from the sea for human use. One of the museum’s current exhibits demonstrates viable actions to take such as using less plastic, avoiding balloons, and eating less seafood.

Along with admission fees and memberships, fundraisers are held (and donations encouraged) to support The Whaling Museum & Education Center’s educational efforts. For a list of events and exhibits, visit

By Rebecca Hoey

webPlus_web_green1More on the museum and whales

The Whaling Museum & Education Center


Arthur Kopelman, president of the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI), spoke at The Whaling Museum and Education Center at Cold Springs Harbor. In this video Dr. Kopelman shares his expertise about the beautiful creatures he has dedicated his life to helping.

CRESLI offers whale cruises leaving from Montauk Point. Check out their current schedule at:

I remember hearing whale songs often while growing up. Their vocals are nothing short of mesmerizing, and definitely helped add to the love I already had for marine wildlife. Here’s an article from the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Whale songs:



lives on Long Island’s East End with her teenage daughter. They dedicate much of their time to animal rescue. She began a writing career as a contributor/blogger for Her greatest escape is baking.

Comments are closed.