This interview was conducted by Selva Ozelli
Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum is the only museum in the world open year-round to illuminate the art, science, history & culture of Long Island's whaling heritage. What was the vision in establishing this museum?
Almost 90 years ago, the museum was established by local community members with the goal of preserving Cold Spring Harbor's whaling history and heritage as a 19th century whaling village. The star of the collection, and the impetus for founding the museum, is a historic whaleboat, which is the only whaling vessel with original gear on display in NY. Today, we the museum preserves 6,000-item collection documenting Long Island's earliest commercial industry which significantly shaped the development & social foundation of the region.
Tell us about your museum's exhibitions and programming?
The Whaling Museum is an educational institution, and we provide the community with lifelong learning opportunities through outstanding exhibitions and programming for adults and children. Our events are quite diverse, and I consider our creativity to be our biggest asset! We connect a wide range of subject matter illuminating Long Island's rich connections to the sea from a cultural, artistic, or scientific lens. Some of our events are large-scale, like our Sea Glass Festival (July 23 this year), Haunted Boo-seum (October 29), or Whales and Ales (early June). Others are sit-down workshops; for example, this summer we are offering craft workshops on Thursdays in July and August where both adults and kids can carve scrimshaw art or create boat models. We also have a slew of ocean-related crafts for Fun Fridays.
Post-Covid, our self-guided scavenger hunts/craft hybrids still remain popular. This summer, we are offering "Shark Invasion!" where kids hunt for shark clues around the museum and excavate a shark tooth fossil to keep.
For school groups, we offer hands-on programs about whales and whaling, and we also offer 15 scout programs. We have end-of-summer camp adventure weeks, too, which my own kids love and look forward to all year.
One new program we are developing for Fall 2023 is a Cemetery Tour of a local historic cemetery - stay tuned! Those interested in learning more about our offerings can visit cshwhalingmuseum.org/events, or follow the museum on social media.
This year the International Museum Day on May 18, 2023 theme was "Museums, Sustainability and Well-being." Museums contribute to the well-being and sustainable development of our communities. What programs/initiatives will your Museum institute addressing climate change and sustainability?
In terms of well-being, I think one of the things Covid taught us was that the humanities are as important as medical intervention during times of trauma and need. Museums like ours help explore what it means to be human, and grounds our communities.
In terms of climate change and sustainability, I've always thought it interesting how the world's first global environmental movement - the "Save the Whales" campaign in the 70's - launched from whaling. Part of our exhibitions draw attention to pressures whales face today, which we hope inspires people to champion cleaner oceans.
What partnerships has your museum developed?
As a small museum, we push to work with our neighbors when we can. A number of our events are collaborative with nearby institutions. This summer, we joined forces with several local historical societies to offer Harry Potter-themed scavenger hunts.
Tell us about your museums World Oceans Day activities in partnership with the United Nations and Oceanic Global.
This year, we are proud to highlight the unique work of Selva Ozelli, whose "Orcas & Reefs" helps raise awareness of ocean conservation through the power of art.
Orca & Reefs by Selva Ozelli
Does your museum have digital programming accessible from around the world?
Yes. Being involved with our museum is primarily an in-person experience, but some of our public program offerings are available online. Last week, we had an online talk, "Gender at Sea." This summer, we have an online talk on Tues, July 25 at 7pm called "Sharks of NY & Long Island."
The museum also runs a robust "Museum to You" Program that we are very proud of. This is an offering of year-round and seasonal programs designed for schools, libraries, and group settings. In addition to the museum physically bringing programs to offsite locations, our educators also deliver terrific programs to audiences online.
The Museum's archives and highlights from its collection are viewable and digitally accessible any time at cshwhalingmuseum.org/collection.
Anything else you would like to add.
Our museum does so much for its size. Although petite-sized, there is a lot packed into our building, and most people are pleasantly surprised once they step through our doors. Our events in particular really make the place come to life. We hope to welcome new faces this summer!
A picture from the Whaling Museum featuring Nomi Dayan, Gina Van Bell and Selva Ozelli
How can people reach your museum?
Visitors can access the museum by car, or by Long Island Railroad to the CSH train station + taxi service (it's about a 5-10-minute ride from the train station).
The subject of all works of art is very important and determines the purpose of art. According to what I read. I think that these Museums help explore what it means to be human, and grounds our communities.