Mr. Vanderbilt’s oceanic expeditions and unprecedented circumnavigations of the globe make it possible for visitors to journey around the planet without leaving Long Island. His specimen-hunting trips to the Galápagos Islands, throughout the Pacific, Asia, the Mediterranean, Africa, the Atlantic and Caribbean, yielded thousands of specimens of marine, bird and insect life, some of them new discoveries at the time Vanderbilt found them.
William Belanske, an artist from the American Museum of Natural History, traveled with Vanderbilt. (Later, he lived on the estate as Vanderbilt’s curator.) Belanske then collaborated with the noted painter Henry Hobart Nicholas (also of the AMNH) to create the Habitat Room’s stunning dioramas that depict animal life from several continents. The centerpiece of the room is a 32-foot whale shark, the world’s largest taxidermied fish, caught off Fire Island in 1935.
The Stoll Wing and its wild-animal dioramas complement the Habitat Room. The Hall of Fishes marine museum displays hundreds of oceanic specimens. In addition to numerous birds and invertebrates, the Memorial Wing galleries exhibit ethnographic objects. These works – which reveal the artisanal talents of Asian, African and Pacific cultures – include clothing, utensils, weapons and ceremonial artifacts.