Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend

February 3 – June 16, 2024

Dive deep into the world of nature’s most mystical sea-creature.

Photo: Glenn Williams, Narwhal Tusk Research

The Upcountry History Museum will invite visitors to “Meet the Unicorn of the Sea” when it hosts Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend, a Smithsonian traveling exhibition.

What is a narwhal? It is, in fact a mammal, part of the whale lineage.  Narwhals only live near the Arctic Circle, where climate and sea-ice changes pose a mounting challenge to their survival.

From their depiction in the 1500s as angry sea monsters to their status as icons of pop culture today, the narwhal, with its unique spiral tusk (which is a tooth), has inspired legend in Inuit and European society and fascinated people across cultures for centuries.  This mysterious animal and its changing ecosystem are highlighted in this special exhibition developed by the National Museum of Natural History and its Arctic Studies Center.

Through first-hand accounts from scientists and Inuit community members, the exhibition reveals how traditional knowledge and experience, coupled with the latest scientific research, heighten our understanding of these fascinating animals and our changing global climate.

The 2,000 square-foot exhibition features an 18-foot fiberglass model of an adult male narwhal suspended from the ceiling.  The model is surrounded by banners, graphic panels, object cases, and physical and digital interactives that engage audiences of all ages in the narwhal story.

Visitors will learn what the narwhal tusk is for, test their tooth knowledge, examine a cast of a skull from a prehistoric narwhal relative and compare the different ways that narwhals and their whale relatives have adapted to the changing Arctic environment.  Panoramic images of landscapes and a soundscape of narwhal vocalizations, ice and water flows and other Arctic wildlife, will immerse visitors in the Arctic environment of the narwhal.

As a Smithsonian Affiliate, the Upcountry History Museum is committed to bringing “Smithsonian experiences” to South Carolina and to connecting Upstate South Carolina with Earth’s unfolding story.


Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend was developed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

Photo: Glenn Williams, Narwhal Tusk Research
Illustration: Allangua (Narwhal), 2016. Tim Pitsiulak
Photo: Joseph Meehan, Narwhal Tusk Research

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