1939 - present
Planning began in 1929, with construction following in 1935. In 1939 the Whitney Memorial Hall opened to the public with eight exhibit groups, and a ninth group showing birds of the high mountains of new Guinea, made possible by support from Richard Archbold through materials collected during his expedition. (2, 1939, p 8). Further construction was interrupted for many years by World War II and its aftermath, and the hall was finally completed and dedicated on January 29, 1953. The dedication marked the completion of the four final habitat groups in the hall (3, 1953).
The Whitney Memorial Hall was the principal exhibition floor of the Whitney Wing in the museum, with Robert Cushman Murphy directing and guiding the research, construction and preparation (1). In the Dedication Ceremony Program from January 29, 1953, Murphy wrote:
"Ringed by a common horizon, you see very nearly every type of Pacific island. The landscapes are real, not imaginary; each represents an actual view from a particular geographic point. Climatically, they run from the Equator to icy seas; meteorologically, from the bone-dry Chinchas to rain-forest of Solomons; structurally, from an atoll of the Tuamotus to the Snow Mountains of New Guinea; botanically, from Galapagos lichens and cacti to the lofty conifers of New Zealand. Ornithologically, you will find here all the families of sea fowl, from penguins to terns, that inhabit an ocean covering a third of our globe. Even among land birds the sampling is surprisingly comprehensive."
The Whitney South Sea Expedition (1920-1941), funded by Harry Payne Whitney, searched out the birds of the little-explored Pacific Islands. In continuous journeys throughout the entire South Pacific region, from Eastern Polynesia westward to New Guinea and the Philippine Islands, and from the Japanese mandated islands of the Carolines to New Zealand, the expeditions traveled more than 50,000 miles and visited some 350 islands. The islands varied from tropical to subantarctic, flat to mountainous, and arid to rainforest. The birds, including more than 30 previously-unknown species, were adapted to every kind of habitat encountered. The materials collected by this and later expeditions provided the basis for the Whitney Memorial Hall, in which scenes illustrate this great span of environments. The information collected has provided significant insights into the geographic distribution of bird populations and how their island isolation affects the development of new species (5, 1995).
Supplementary work in the field by Leonard C. Sanford, Templeton Crocker, Charles H. Stoll, Richard Archbold, Adam Bruce Fahnestock, John Sheridan Fahnestock, A.L. Rand, Rollo Beck, and William Coultas and funding from Andrew G. C. Sage and Henry W. Sage, contributed to the final exhibition in the Whitney Memorial Hall (6, 1953). Other expeditions included the Brewster-Sanford Expeditions (1913-1916) the Templeton Crocker South Pacific Expedition (1936-1937), the Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (1933), the Archbold-Rand New Guinea Expedition (1934-1939), the Fahnestock South Sea Expedition (1940) (2, 1929 p. 10; 2, 1935 p. 34; 2, 1936, p. 44-45; 2, 1940, p. 18).
The habitat groups reproduce the landscapes exactly as Museum expeditions found them. Each represents an actual site at a given time (3, 1953):
Shipfollowers, Southeast of South Island, New Zealand
Samoa, Island of Saoaii
Tuamotu, Island of Hao
Marquesas, Nukahiva Island
Peruvian Guano Islands, Pisia Bay, Peru
Galapagos, James Island
Hawaii, Island of Kaui
Laysan, Taipan Island, Hawaiian Bird Reservation
Solomon Islands, Crawford Island
Philippines, Bataan Peninsula, Luzon Island
Papua, The Laloki River Gorge, Owen Stanley Mountains
Little Diomede Island, Bering Sea
Snow Mountains, New Guinea, Lake Habbema
Australian Great Barrier Reef, Near Cairns, Queensland
Fiji, Vitu Tivu, Slopes of Mount Karombama
New Zealand, Lake Brunner in the South Island Alps
Snares Island, New Zealand
Birds of Paradise (central cases)
South Sea Lories (central cases)
Rifle Bird Group (central cases)
Malay Archipelago Group (central cases)
Bird Dome (6, 1953; 3, 1953; 8, 1958, p. 119-127)
From 1998 and as of 2017, The Butterfly Conservatory, an annual seasonal exhibition, takes place inside the Whitney Memorial Hall of Oceanic Birds (2, 2000, p. 44).
Content negotiation supports the following types: