The New England Aquarium opened in the summer of 1969. The city had been without an aquarium for 15 years since the previous aquatic museum in South Boston closed in 1954. It is hard to believe this oceanfront city was without such an important staple for so long. The aquarium was part of the waterfront urban renewal plan that transformed central wharf. The popular attraction itself has gone through many changes. A ship called Discovery that housed a sea mammal pavilion was once docked next to the museum where dolphins and sea lions performed. A new wing in 1998 included an outdoor harbor seal exhibit, and the IMAX theater was added in 2001. It will be curious to see what new life and developments are on the horizon for this home of interesting ocean dwellers. -Leanne Burden Seidel and Lisa Tuite
Boston Globe Archives
Jan. 11, 1921: Interior of the Marine Park Aquarium, the third aquarium in Boston's history, which operated from 1912-1954. It opened to the public on Thanksgiving Day. Nov. 28, 1912. Standing on Marine Park, directly opposite the end of East 3d Street, the aquarium was built and maintained from the income of the Parkman fund, which was devoted to park purposes of Boston. The exhibition tanks, shown here, were about 6 feet wide and 4 feet high. The salt water fish lived on one side and the fresh water on the other.
Joseph Runci/Globe Staff
April 8, 1968: The New England Aquarium on Central Wharf, which was slated to open May 25, 1968, is shown the week after a five-alarm fire gutted the wooden structure owned by the aquarium on nearby Long Wharf. Only rubble remained and the fire destroyed membership records and designs and materials for the first set of exhibits, which included valuable underseas photographs. The fire was just the first in a series of setbacks. Problems with the piping system required all the pipes to the Giant Ocean Tank, the museum's centerpiece, to be replaced, and the aquarium did not officially open until its grand celebration on June 20, 1969.
Phil Preston/Globe Staff
Feb. 26, 1973: Stephen Genthe, 5, from Newark, N.J., enjoyed the antics of the penguins on their fake snowy "icebergs." Ten black-footed penguins were shipped from South Africa to the aquarium for the opening in 1969. The birds, which cost $80 each, took a two-day flight without food or water. They would have become ill if fed or watered in flight. By the time this photo was taken, they were well-accustomed to their new home in Boston.
Paul Connell/Globe Staff
May 8, 1979: "Dolphins of the Sea," a bronze sculpture by Katharine Lane Weems, was readied for permanent berth at the aquarium. Completed when Weems was 80 years old, the sculpture was the first work of art to be placed on permanent display in the waterfront renewal project.
Bill Greene/Globe Staff
March 26, 1980: Head dolphin trainer Patricia Fiorelli got two of her dolphins to stand on their tails during the popular dolphin show held in the ship, Discovery, that was moored next to the aquarium. In 1991, the aquarium dropped its dolphin exhibit. At that time, they had one 12-year-old female dolphin who needed company other than the two adolescent male dolphins in the tank, and the facilities were too small to add more of these animals. So the female was sent to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and the males were sent to the Dolphin Research Center at Marathon Key, Fla.
john tlumacki/globe staff
May 16, 1984: A view from the top floor of the construction of the renovation of the Great Ocean Tank that featured the largest artificial coral reef system in the country. Two years in development, the fiberglass reef was the height of the existing four-story tank and held 200,000 gallons of filtered Boston Harbor water. It was stocked with 80 species of fish, nearly tripling the number held in the tank previously. The coral itself was constructed and handpainted by aquarium artists with colors ranging from bright red to purple.