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Iconic Natural History Museum blue whale gets annual cleaning

The iconic blue whale that floats in the American Museum of Natural History is undergoing its annual cleaning that will last till Wednesday. The 94-foot-long model of a blue whale installed in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the museum is being vacuumed to remove a year’s worth of dust.

The whale, made of fiberglass and polyurethane on a hollow steel frame, was based on a female blue whale found in 1925 off the South American coast. It was installed in 1969 after years of construction. However, it was mistakenly painted gray, as scientists were yet to observe a living specimen in the ocean.

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Despite weighing around 21,000 pounds, the whale hangs from a single point on the ceiling, which gives it the illusion of floating. “People don’t expect to see such a large model when they walk in,” said Dean Markosian, director of project management in the exhibition department. “They’re usually puzzled about how it’s supported and they like to imagine what it’ll be like to be inside it.”

In 2003, the whale received a makeover reflecting a better understanding of whale biology. For starters, it was painted a more realistic blue. Sculptors reduced the bulge on the eyes, trimmed the tail and added a navel.

 
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