D.C., Baltimore Aquariums Join Forces

Posted September 9, 2003 at 1:38pm

The National Aquarium in Baltimore and the National Aquarium in Washington solidified their already harmonious relationship last week by creating an alliance in hopes of enhancing resource management, animal care and exhibit development.

“It will be a new institution with their expertise,” said Nina Selin, chairwoman of the board of the National Aquarium in Washington.

“They are a very large research institution with scientists and expertise at their fingertips,” Selin, who has been with the aquarium for 23 years, said of the Baltimore aquarium. “The emphasis is kids and scientific research.”

In addition to improving the quality of the exhibits, the union between the two aquariums initiates a major renovation phase for the Washington Aquarium, which has been housed in the lower level of the Commerce Department building since 1931.

“[The renovation] gives us a chance to create a bigger and better [place] and in a sense to create a new place,” Selin said. “This is only a positive.”

The governance boards for both aquariums hope the alliance and the future expansion will create “more aquatic space” and increase programming in Washington.

“It’s an alliance that will provide greater opportunity,” said Maris St. Cyr, director of communications at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

“We’ve worked with them for years, this just brings more to the table,” she said, adding that both aquariums’ leadership boards will continue to serve D.C.’s schoolchildren.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore hosted 1.6 million visitors last year and is seven to eight times larger than Washington’s aquarium, according to St. Cyr.

Despite the standing affiliation between the two museums, the coming six to 12 months will be filled with expanding relationships and assessing mutual strengths, needs and opportunities in order to develop a long-range plan.

“We are both nonprofit, private and self-supportive,” St. Cyr said. “We will make [our] staff available, and there will be no reassignments.”