Label Love Letter: The Monterey Bay Aquarium

Written interpretations – labels, panels, and even brochures – are some of my favorite things in museums. Here are some of the ones I adore.


Ever since I spent time at the Monterey Bay Aqurium conducting research for my masters thesis, I’ve been a huge fan of the aquarium’s approach when it comes to label writing. And I’m not the only one. The aquarium has won multiple AAM Excellence in Exhibition awards and is even in Beverly Serrell’s Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approach.

I recently spent a whirlwind two hours there and, much to my husband’s amusement (annoyance?) I spent far more time looking at the labels than I did at the animals. But what can I say? They’re just that good.

Here are a few of my favorites, including some gorgeous examples of alliteration and brevity, from The Jellies Experience and Tentacles.

The Jellies Experience

I keep misreading the line as, “…waves its lacy underpants,” which is the only way this sentence could be better.



…a dangerous curtain of vintage lace and ghostly white tentacles.





From the surface to the seafloor, streamlined squid and hard-shelled nautiluses prowl for prey.


Flinging sand with its tiny fins…

Gluelike goo from a special gland…


These simple cues read like haikus.




Roaming the reef, it raises long, lumpy ridges…


Schools of these large squid glide like graceful ghosts – skimming over sea grass beds, coral reefs, and sandy seafloors.


Have you had the chance to see either of these exhibits? Did you do what visitors are supposed to do and actually look at the animals?

No label association here – I just took an awesome shark picture.


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