Building the Sant Ocean Hall – like any major exhibition – is a huge undertaking. Over the course of five years, it required hundreds of people with a vast array of skills and backgrounds. Many of these people worked on one aspect of the exhibit, such as the whale model, the fabrication, or the writing.
A team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) worked closely with the National Museum of Natural History to apply the agency's science, expertise and resources to the challenge of design and development of the immense story of the global ocean.
One group of people, however, shaped the project from start to finish. This is the exhibit's core team. Every exhibit has a core team, its members chosen by museum administration for their backgrounds and abilities to work throughout the length of the project. The Ocean Hall Core Team directed the content of the exhibit, coordinates selection of all specimens, and approves all design and text. They are the “core” shapers of the ocean hall. Come and meet the ocean hall team!
|Dr. Carole Baldwin
|Sharon Katz Cooper
|Dr. Brian Huber Curator||Dr. Michael Vecchione
“I remember thinking, ‘a movie, a book… what next?' A permanent Smithsonian exhibit seemed an excellent choice for another high-visibility contribution to increasing public literacy about the ocean. How many people get to have a significant impact on a permanent exhibit in their field of interest at the Smithsonian Institution? I felt lucky that I was in the right place at the right time.”
Dr. Carole Baldwin is an expert on fish and is a Curator of Fishes at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. She brings the essential perspective of a marine biologist to the core team.
Carole's face will be familiar to any of you who have seen the Smithsonian 3-D IMAX film, Galapagos, for which she was a scientific advisor and on-air talent. She grew up in coastal South Carolina and studied at James Madison University, the College of Charleston, and the College of William and Mary.
Carole focuses her research on diversity and evolution of tropical-marine and deep-sea fishes. She is currently leading a group effort to reanalyze Caribbean fish diversity based on a combination of traditional morphological and modern molecular analyses. Her work includes the discovery of new species of fishes in Belize, Tobago, Cook Islands, Australia, El Salvador and the Galápagos Islands. She is also the senior author of One Fish, Two Fish, Crawfish, Bluefish -- The Smithsonian Sustainable Seafood Cookbook (Smithsonian Books, 2003), a marine conservation project featuring information and recipes from professional chefs for seafood species fished or farmed in an ecologically sound manner.
She has been featured in National Geographic, Smithsonian, Rodale Scuba Diving, and More magazines, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The International Herald Tribune, and on CNN and the ABC television special Planet Earth 2000. In 2003, she was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame. Carole has devoted much time to sharing her experiences as a marine biologist with students and the general public and is proud to provide a positive role model for young girls considering careers in science.
The most exciting part of the process for Carole? “Imagining what all the hard work is going to look like in the end! I have really enjoyed watching the designers turn our concepts and ideas into exhibit items. I've also loved interacting with the various curators and collections staff throughout the museum as we identified and selected specimens for the exhibit. Traipsing through the collections, picking and choosing, I felt like a kid in a candy store.”
“Growing up in Washington, the National Museum of Natural History was my backyard museum. The chance to work on a major exhibit hall there and learn from so many amazing people was truly a dream job!”
Sharon Cooper is the project's educator – advising the team on educational goals and objectives, and serving as advocate for the visitor's perspective.
Sharon is an educator who first became involved with exhibits when she worked on the Bronx Zoo's Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit in New York City. While there, she helped to develop the exhibit's content and a set of award-winning educational materials for teachers, students and families visiting the Congo. After moving to the Washington area in 2000, she worked at National Wildlife Federation as its curriculum specialist for several years. When she heard about the opportunity to become involved in an ocean exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History, it was a chance that Sharon — a Washington native — couldn't pass up.
Sharon is also a freelance writer and author of more than 20 books for children. She holds a bachelor's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University and a masters in environmental studies from Yale.
“I saw this as a great opportunity to explain interconnections between atmospheric and oceanic processes and their influence on the evolution of life on Earth – using some beautiful specimens from our large fossil collections.”
Dr. Brian Huber is the core team's paleontologist, bringing the perspective of the long history of the ocean to the project.
Brian received his doctorate from Ohio State University in 1988 and became Curator of Foraminifera at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History shortly afterward. He reconstructs the history of Earth's climate and ocean during the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods (115 million to 23 million years ago), and studies the evolution and extinction of ancient foraminifera, which are tiny oceanic single-celled organisms, including those that floated in the ocean surface and others that lived on the seafloor.
Brian has done field work in Antarctica, southern South America, Spain, Tanzania, and on the deep-sea drilling ship JOIDES Resolution in the southern Indian Ocean and off the coast of northern Florida.
The most exciting part for Brian: the creative process of going from a vague idea, to what stories we want to present, to actually selecting the specimens to tell the stories, and working with designers and writers to decide how to tell those stories.
“After working on renovation of the museum's marine hall in fits and starts and bits and pieces for years, to see the funding come through for the largest exhibit yet at the museum – the Ocean Hall – was a dream come true!”
Jill Johnson is the Ocean Hall's exhibit developer, bringing her valuable experience as an exhibit planner and audience advocate to the project.
Jill has a bachelor's degree in marine science from Southampton College, N.Y. She began her career at the National Museum of Natural History in 1979 as a research assistant to Paleobiology Curator Dr. Walter Adey. Dr. Adey had a grant from the National Science Foundation to build a living model coral reef ecosystem for public exhibit. He later had a grant from the National Marine Sanctuary Program to build a living model of a Maine coast ecosystem. Many years of field work and collecting for these exhibits (aboard a Smithsonian research vessel) culminated in the Marine Ecosystems exhibit. This exhibit was on display in the museum's marine hall for many years. Jill served as the exhibit's facility manager under the Office of Exhibits from 1986 to 1991. At that time, she switched career tracks to become an exhibit developer in the Office of Exhibits. Before embarking on the Ocean Hall, she worked on a variety of both permanent and temporary exhibit projects including, “In Search of Giant Squid,” “The Mighty Marlin,” “America's Wildest Places,” and the renovation of the Museum's rotunda with its world-renowned African elephant.
“My favorite part of the Hall is the giant squid display, including the challenge of getting it here from Spain and the entire process of building and engineering a super-special tank to hold it.”
As project manager for the Ocean Hall, Elizabeth oversees the entire process, including all aspects of construction and a budget of nearly $30 million. In addition to coordinating schedules, logistics, contracts, and personnel, she supervises the contractors and is the person who formally accepts the final products on behalf of the museum. Currently, she manages the development and fabrication of the Ocean Hall and the Butterfly and Plant Pavilion, another exciting project coming soon.
Elizabeth is a project manager in the Office of Exhibits at the museum. Her past projects include the renovation of the museum's Behring Family Rotunda, the highly acclaimed Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals and the Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals. Before joining the National Museum of Natural History, Musteen worked at the National Institute for Conservation of Cultural Property, where she helped small museums secure grants for conservation and architectural assessments. She holds a bachelor's degree in history and art history from Drury University in Springfield, Mo., and a master's degree in museum studies from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Curator“The opportunity to educate 6 million visitors a year and shape what they could learn about the ocean was really important to me.”
Dr. Michael Vecchione is a zoologist, representing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the Core Team. Because of his background in Biological Oceanography, he brings a broad oceanographic perspective to the team.
He has been enticed by the ocean since he was a child. Born in a town called Neptune, Mike went to sea as a cabin boy on a three-masted schooner in Maine at the age of 16. He received his undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Miami in 1972, and then spent 4.5 years as an officer in the U.S. Army.
In graduate school at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, he studied planktonic mollusks and has continued his work on cephalopods (the group of mollusks that includes octopuses, squid and cuttlefish) ever since. After receiving his doctorate from VIMS, he worked briefly for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before accepting a faculty position at McNeese State University. While there, he studied cephalopods, zooplankton (animals that drift or feebly swim in the surface waters, and ichthyoplankton (fish eggs and larvae that drift in the surface waters) . In 1986 he took his present position as Cephalopod Biologist at the National Systematics Laboratory, a NOAA Fisheries lab located at the National Museum of Natural History. He has been Director of the NSL since 1997. From 2000 to 2002, he established and served as Director of a Cooperative Marine Education and Research program at VIMS, where he is also an adjunct faculty member.
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