The Sharks Exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History

Recently opened, the exhibit hopes to offer people a new perspective on sharks.

Panels next to the large model of the megalodon describe it being about 50 feet long, significantly larger than the current largest predatory fish, the great white shark.

Dim lights and an almost life-sized model of the now extinct Megalodon shark greet you as you enter the Sharks Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York. The attractive exhibition opened recently on December 15th, 2021, and is open for viewing until late summer, August 14th, 2022.

As you take a walk through the left side of the exhibit, you can see a diverse selection of shark models along with short descriptions of each of their species. There are many interactive features at the exhibition that allow people to learn about sharks through minigames, including matching games and more.

Described in the preview video, part of the reason the exhibit was created was to change the way that people perceive sharks. The AMNH website begins their section about the Sharks Exhibit with the phrase, “To be great is to be misunderstood.” One of the curators on the team, John Sparks, explains in the video preview for the event, how this phrase relates to sharks. “The public perception of sharks is that they are large vicious predators that are to be feared when you go in the water,” said Sparks.

In the exhibit, one of the interactive stations titled “What is the real risk?” shows that only about ten people a year die from shark bites, as opposed to the million from mosquitoes. Another station of the exhibit titled, “They’re just not that into you,” describes the lack of interest that sharks have in humans, despite common belief.

Through such informative texts, the message that John Sparks and the team responsible for the exhibit hope to convey is clear: Sharks have been wrongfully misunderstood for a long time. 

Another region at the Sharks Exhibit discusses the issue of shark overfishing, and measures that need to be taken to protect sharks. For instance, in Indonesia, local fishermen paid by the Misool Foundation enforce a No Take Zone to prevent sharks from being caught. Other examples are shark sanctuaries in Palau, and anti-finning ads in China. By first showing the products – shark oil, shark fin soup, among others – made from sharks, in another display with the same name, it demonstrates the large number of products consumers purchase without realizing they have shark parts in them.

The Sharks Exhibit effectively raises awareness about the issues sharks face while also working towards combating these issues. As was the intention of the exhibit, I walked out of the museum with a different perspective on sharks than what I had going in. As you exit the exhibit, you are encountered by a gift shop containing a large variety of shark related merchandise. 

Take the time to visit the Sharks Exhibit at The American Museum of Natural History, typically open Wednesday through Sunday, before the exhibit permanently closes in August. 

The AMNH website begins their section about the Sharks Exhibit with the phrase, “To be great is to be misunderstood.”