I recently had a week-long staycation while our nanny was on a real vacation. My mom came and we spent the week gardening, preparing for a birthday party and playing with out boys. We managed to make it out one day and did the short trip to Monaco to visit the aquariums at the Institut Océanographic in Monaco.
Have you been to Monaco? I like going there - it's different enough to feel like I've actually been somewhere. The thing I always note about it is how clean it is - like the "streets" of Disneyland the place feels a bit staged, but pleasant.
The Institut was founded by Prince Albert I in 1906 after more than 20 years of exploration and research. It feels like something directly out of Jules Verne. A huge neo-classical building built into the rock, the instiut houses aquariums, a museum that memorializes the days of exploration under Prince Albert I, a theatre and research facilities. It's most famous director, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, is no where mentioned. A little research hints that the Cousteau family - still very active in oceanography - tightly controls the Cousteau legacy (even if they don't all get along themselves). Therefore, the museum has no mention of the relationship and role that Cousteau played as director or how the instiut and Monaco provided a base and support to Cousteau.
If you want to get a (funny) idea, you need to watch Wes Anderson's hommage.
Today, the public part of the Institut is on three floors - the main entrance and atrium which were closed due to an installation while we were there, downstairs were the aquariums and upstairs the displays of artifacts and history of the early explorations
The aquarium is not huge like in Monterey Bay in California but it is nonetheless impressive and interesting, especially the wing devoted to the Mediterranean species. The museum was filled with preserved specimens, huge fish skeletons and models of the on-board labs used at the dawn of the 20th century. In all, an amazing look at one piece of oceanography from its beginnings to today.