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The Kellogg Illustration Collection
: Whale Bones (Fossil and Modern)

The Department of Paleobiology in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History houses several beautiful collections of historical scientific illustrations. These collections represent a wide variety of paleontological subject matter one of which – the Kellogg Illustration Collection – depicts fossil and modern whale skeletal anatomy.

The collection comprises more than 350 drawings (final art and rough sketches) of over 60 species of whales.  Sydney Prentice prepared the majority of the drawings, which were printed in four decades of publications by cetologist Remington Kellogg.

Selected pieces from this collection will be on display in the exhibition From Bone to Book in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' beautiful Folger cases in the National Museum of Natural History from Spring 2013 - Spring 2014.


Twelve illustrations of whale bones

Basilosaurus skeleton

Samples from the Kellogg Illustration Collection - see gallery for more images.

From an artistic standpoint, the primary importance of the collection is its exemplary record of the traditional, classic, and difficult to master pen and ink thick/thin line (or eyelash) technique.  The collection showcases Prentice’s work and, through preliminary sketches, provides valuable insight into the scientific and artistic processes that lead to the final published drawings.

Today, computer graphics programs, such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and equipment, such as Wacom Cintiq monitors upon which one draws with a stylus, have to a large extent replaced pen and ink on paper – materials that in the 20th century monopolized the field of scientific illustration.  The Prentice illustrations represent a scientific illustration technique that may be going extinct.

That said, flexible pens and ink are still available for purchase and cost very, very little; computer equipment and software are very expensive. Drawing in pen and ink is something all can enjoy and perfect with practice.


We sincerely thank the Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee for generously supporting the conservation and exhibition of this collection; the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators for their Education Fund grant which facilitated the preparation of this website; St. John's College's Shupe Fund and Ariel Internship Program for funding Julia Coursey's 2010 and 2011 summer internships; and the Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) Kellogg Fund and Walcott Fund for supporting the From Bone to Book exhibit.

We also thank Dave Bohaska, museum specialist (fossil whales)(NMNH) for helping us with a multitude of tasks, and Sarah Pelot, a long time volunteer and contractor, who initially organized, archivally cleaned and rehoused, and catalogued the collection.

Finally, we wish to thank Nicholas D. Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals (NMNH), for helping us understand the scientific aspects of the illustrations and for his interest and enthusiasm in regards to the care and promotion of this important collection.

This website was prepared by Mary Parrish, Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and Julia Coursey, St. John's College, Santa Fe, New Mexico