After fourteen years and with the help of hundreds of volunteers, the Pratt Museum in Homer is nearing completion of a gray whale skeleton, the centerpiece of an upcoming display that will be open to the public in February.
The exhibit “Encounters: Whales in our Waters” will explore the relationship between humans and whales, and will feature whale research concerning a variety of whale species that come into Kachemak Bay and the Lower Cook Inlet. The exhibit will include interactive displays and research on whale acoustics.
It’s about more than the gray whale, museum curator Scott Barlett explains. But he’s “the star of the show.”
More than 50 people have helped with the articulation of the skeleton since efforts began this summer. They have been constructing the skeleton in the museum’s workshop, which isn’t large enough to piece together the entire specimen. So, volunteers have put together parts of the whale - it’s 8 foot tail, 600 pound spinal column, and 550 pound skull - and have begun moving it into the gallery, piece by piece.
Putting together the entire skeleton is going to take a lot of man power.
“It’ll be a production,” Bartlett says.
Still, for all the work that has gone into hauling the whale into the museum, it’s a “temporary thing,” Bartlett laughs. It’s the sneak preview of a permanent exhibit that will go on display at the new Pratt Museum that is scheduled to begin construction next year, and will hopefully be complete by 2016.
The construction of the skeleton has turned into a community project, Barlett says. “The amount of public support has really been overwhelming.”