Following William Bradford to the Frozen North

Counting the hours until launch. In a couple days I’ll be  one of a small group heading to  Greenland as we retrace William Bradford’s final Arctic voyage one hundred and forty-three years later. The New Bedford Whaling Museum, in April of 2013, will be republishing a modern edition of Bradford’s Arctic Regions in conjunction with our upcoming exhibit  Arctic Visions: Away then Float the Ice Island.

The Chasing the Light voyage was first envisioned a few years ago by Rena Bass Forman (1954-2011). At that time it seemed to me more a dream than opportunity to be taken. Instead, through the generosity of private donors and with careful planning this dream is now a reality. As artist and photographer Rena was inspired by Bradford’s work, but more specifically the photography incorporated within Arctic Regions as executed by Boston photographers John L. Dunmore and George Critcherson.

Castle Berg in Melville Bay over two hundred feet high.

Their photographs were the first taken in the high Arctic. At that time the theory of an Ice Age was still new, and the concept of an open Polar Sea was popular, though not proven. This perspective sits in contrast to our knowledge today; and to the discussion revolving around natural and manmade climate change; and the fact that Polar Sea is now opening up.  Then, like today, the public was hungry for news about ice, glaciers, and survival in one of the most remote regions of our planet.

Our Arctic Visions: Away then Float the Ice Island exhibit will run for two years. Adjacent to it we will feature a series of contemporary exhibits that will relate to the parallel narratives Bradford and fellow voyager and Arctic Explorer Isaac Israel Hayes developed. We will open this series with Rena Bass Forman’s exhibit also named Chasing the Light.

Our group of eleven voyagers includes: artists, explorers, photographers, filmmaker, teacher, polar guides, and curator. We hold to our core a thirst to explore and create, passed to us most recently from Rena, and through the centuries from Bradford and like-minded artists.

Engage with the developing exhibits and programming process via our Department of Digital Initiatives wiki. There you will find resources including an extensive reading list including a link to the draft transcription of Arctic Regions.

My role at the Museum, in addition to being Photography Curator, is as Director of the Department of Digital Initiatives.  I am, we are fully immersed within the “digital stream”. Follow William Bradford and Isaac Israel Hayes’s narratives via twitter, get voyage updates through Facebook and this blog, and upon our return and before the end of September catch the launch of our project-based microsite.

The Chasing the Light voyage will be carrying flags from The Explorers ClubThe Royal Canadian Geographic SocietyWings WorldQuest, and The New Bedford Whaling Museum.

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