Category Archives: Conservation

Rare 18th Century Dutch Clock Rings Again

Gerrit Knip Tall Clock, ca. 1760-80.

Gerrit Knip Tall Clock, ca. 1760-80.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has restored to working order one of the largest and oldest clocks in its collection.  The massive clock, which stands nine feet tall and was once part of the Kendall Whaling Museum before it came to New Bedford, has a deep connection to the city, which dates to the eighteenth century. Owned by Samuel Rodman (1753-1835) and his wife Elizabeth Barney Rotch Rodman (daughter of William Rotch), the clock may have been specially made for William Rotch as early as 1754 and may have been a wedding gift to his daughter and son-in-law in 1780.

Built by Gerrit Knip, considered “the most fashionable clockmaker and watchmaker in Amsterdam”, the clock was part of the Samuel Rodman household when it moved in the 1790s from Nantucket to New Bedford. It was inherited by Samuel Rodman, Jr. and wife Hanna Prior Rodman, and descended thereafter in the Rodman and Rotch families. Knip was at the height of his career in the 1780s, renowned for his intricate cases and mechanisms.

The elaborate clockworks circa 1760-80 include a mechanically animated whaling fleet bounding through an Artic seascape. The highly decorated long-case of burled walnut, silvered brass mounts, blind fretwork, and brass column capitals is done in the Amsterdam style and features oil-on-metal painted decoration of Arctic whaling and polar bear hunting scenes.

Knip_Tall_Clock_face_detailThe figure of Atlas at the center apex may possibly have been inspired by the monumental sculpture by Arthus Quellinus for what is currently the Royal Palace at Dam Square in Amsterdam, and flanked by archangel finials. The eight-day pendulum movement is weight-driven and strikes the hour, quarter-hour and half-hour. It also shows the days, date, phases of the moon and the zodiac in Dutch. The decorations include a spouting whale, and mythological scenes of Helios pulling the sun across the sky in his chariot which rose and fell in the ocean stream Okeanus, overseen by Oceanus, who is pictured on the left.

The Museum contracted with Pen & Pendulum in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, to undertake the repairs, which included father and son clock-makers, Arthur and Warren Hovasse fully disassembling , cleaning, fabricating new parts, and reinstalling the clock in the Braitmayer Family Gallery.

Supported in part by the Rose Lamb Gifford Fund, the repairs are the most comprehensive to date on the clock, which have included conservation of the case over several years. The clock had not been keeping time since the mid-1990s. “This is the first of several tall case clocks the museum hopes to bring back to life as part of a five year conservation plan,” said Christina Connett, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions.

Act Right Now – Save a Species…The Video

North Atlantic right whale killed by ship strike. Photo by Monica Zani, New England Aquarium. Taken under NOAA/NMFS federal permit.

North Atlantic right whale killed by ship strike. Photo by Monica Zani, New England Aquarium. Taken under NOAA/NMFS federal permit.

On December 9 of last year, less than two months ago, the Whaling Museum hosted a press conference to announce the launching of the Act Right Now – Save a Species campaign. This campaign seeks to remove the ‘sunset’ date of December 9, 2013 that was included as part of the rule that requires ships greater than 65 feet to slow down to 10 knots when they enter areas known to be inhabited by the North Atlantic right whale. This rule is seasonal, since the NARW migrates along the eastern seaboard of the United States.  Based on the results of the first four years, this rule is proving to be an effective tool in cutting down on ship strikes in these areas.

It is critical that this rule be kept in place, if we are to minimize one of the human-induced causes of right whale mortality. Any population of animal that is as endangered as this one is (the population hovers around 500) needs our help for survival, especially if we know how to prevent these types of fatal interactions.

To that end, our colleagues at Whale and Dolphin Conservation commissioned a video to tell this story and to urge NOAA to remove the expiration date from this rule.  Several partners of the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, including WM staff participated in this important effort. We encourage you to watch this compelling eight minute video, which has both excellent footage of right whales and gruesome images of ship strikes,  and then sign the petition to extend the life of the 2008 Final Rule to Implement Speed Restrictions to Reduce the Threat of Ship Collisions with North Atlantic Right Whales.

The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium consists of members from dozens of agencies, non-profits, universities and whale related businesses.  We proudly host their annual meeting each November.

GNB Voc-Tech students’ skills shine at the Whaling Museum

Mark Leary, Korey Martin and Dana Costa install custom doors and panels made by GNB Voc-Tech carpentry students for “Scrimshaw: Shipboard Art of the Whalers” opening May 13, 2pm.

Building the many and varied display cases needed for the world’s largest scrimshaw exhibit would have been a daunting task were it not for the students of Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School. Voc-Tech’s carpentry classes fabricated more than 29 custom doors and viewing panels for the new gallery, set to open to the public on Mothers Day, Sunday, May 13 at 2:00 p.m.

James Russell, museum president, lauded the students’ work, noting “How great is it that much of what we admire in the museum’s collection was made by master craftsmen! Today, skilled students from Voc-Tech are back at the museum, helping to build exhibits that house these masterpieces – to be enjoyed by New Bedford residents and visitors for years to come.”

The museum’s staff, designers and carpenters worked with GNB Voc-Tech’s coordinator of construction projects, Robert Gomes, and carpentry teacher, Donald Derosiers, on the exacting specifications for the elaborate cabinetry required to exhibit hundreds of rare examples of scrimshaw – the 19th century shipboard art of whalers. Students utilized the school’s state-of-the-art CNC (computer numerical control) milling machinery to create the seamless doorframes and panels.

Master carpenter, Dana Costa, rebuilt and refitted existing museum cases and installed the Voc-Tech components with the assistance of Mark Leary and Korey Martin.

The exhibit opening caps the museum’s 23rd annual Scrimshaw Weekend, May 11-13, which attracts scrimshaw experts, collectors and fans from around the world. Titled Scrimshaw: Shipboard Art of the Whalers, the exhibit is curated Dr. Stuart M. Frank, Senior Curator, with the assistance of museum volunteers John Antones, Richard Donnelly, Michael Gerstein, Vasant Gideon, Judith Lund, Barbara Moss, Sanford Moss, Catherine Reynolds and James Vaccarino.

The largest permanent exhibit of its kind, Scrimshaw: Shipboard Art of the Whalers coincides with the launch of a major new book on scrimshaw, titled Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved: Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum by Dr. Frank – a 400-page reference with more than 700 photographs by Richard Donnelly.

Admission to the Sunday opening of the scrimshaw exhibit and book launch: regular admission rates apply. In honor of Mother’s Day, mothers are admitted free when accompanied by at least one member of her family.

New Bedford Glass and Its Context, April 26

Kirk J. Nelson

Kirk J. Nelson will present an illustrated lecture titled New Bedford Glass and Its Context on Thursday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. – part of the 2012 Old Dartmouth Lyceum lecture series on fine and decorative arts. A reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Jacobs Family Gallery precedes the lecture.

Mr. Nelson is executive director of the New Bedford Museum of Glass, located at 61 Wamsutta Street. He earned his MA degree and Certificate of Museum Studies from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture at the Winterthur Museum and the University of Delaware. An expert on the development of the American glass press during the 1820s and 1830s, Mr. Nelson is an Honorary Fellow of the Corning Museum of Glass, former Curator of Glass at the Sandwich Glass Museum and former Curator of Art & Decorative Arts at the Bennington Museum. He has lectured and published extensively on a wide variety of glass-related subjects. His practical glass working experience includes Pairpoint Crystal, Inc. of Sagamore, Massachusetts, and the operation of a glass studio in East Sandwich.

In 1993, Mr. Nelson was one of five founding trustees to establish the Glass Art Center, Inc., which was affiliated with Bradford College in Bradford, Massachusetts. After the closing of the college the Center relocated to New Bedford and reincorporated in 2006 as the New Bedford Museum of Glass.

The museum collection consists of 7,000 objects documenting more than 3,000 years of glassmaking history. It covers many regions and periods, from ancient to contemporary, with special emphasis on the city of New Bedford, celebrated in the late 19th century as the “Art Glass Headquarters of the Country.” Rose Amber glass, Crown Milano, Royal Flemish, Burmese and Lava glass are just a few of the exotic lines developed in New Bedford.

The museum’s library holds more than 8,000 volumes in ten languages on glass related topics, including the Shirley Collection of the Mount Washington Glass Company – containing the firm’s original glass patents, trade catalogs, correspondence, photographs, and international awards.

Admission to the lecture and reception: $15 members; $20 non-members. For tickets, call (508) 997-0046 Ext. 100.

The 2012 Speakers’ Series is presented by BayCoast Bank, and sponsored in part by C.E. Beckman, and Hampton Inn Fairhaven/New Bedford.

Seven Continents, Seven Seas exhibit opens Feb. 9

A new exhibit titled Seven Continents, Seven Seas opens on AHA! night, February 9 at 7:00 p.m. in the Wattles Family Gallery. Immediately following the opening, Stuart M. Frank, Ph.D., senior curator, will present a lecture titled Adventures in Saving a Painting: Quest, Conquest, and Conservationat 7:30 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater.

"The Whale Beached between Scheveningen and Katwijk, with Elegant Sightseers," by Esaias van den Velde, c.1617, is one of several Dutch Old Master whaling paintings in “Seven Continents, Seven Seas” opening February 9 and will be the subject of a free lecture by Dr. Stuart Frank at 7:30 p.m.

Admission to the opening, lecture and reception is free.

“This year marks the tenth anniversary of the gift of the entire holdings of the former Kendall Whaling Museum to the permanent collection of the New Bedford Whaling Museum. This provides a fitting occasion for showing highlights, reflecting the broad international and chronological compass of our combined collections,” said Dr. Frank.

Dutch Old Master whaling paintings will be represented, along with major British marine paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries by Continental European and American painters. The exhibit also includes visions of Africa, Australia, and Antarctica, representing all seven continents and all seven seas in the selected paintings, watercolors, ship models, Japanese scrolls and sculptural works.

Admission to all museum galleries on AHA! night is buy one, get one free (of equal or lesser value).

Satellite Tags Help Researchers Study Whales

This article in the Daily Astorian,  from Oregon, features Bruce Mate answering a variety of questions about whales and some of what’s been learned from tagging them. This is a good story for those of you looking for good tidbits of info without going into too much detail.

Pilot Whale Research – Citizen Science

Zoologia Danica Pattedyr XVI by Lovendal. From NBWM Kendall Collection.

For those of you with an interest in whale vocalizations and a keen ear, you might be interested in this opportunity to aid in whale research.  ” The collective wisdom of the crowd is being called upon to help scientists decipher the language of pilot and killer whales in a project that could help us operate our machines in harmony with the ocean giants.”

After reading about unusual strandings and deaths of Cuvier’s Beaked Whales in the waters off of Italy over the last 36 hours, presumably in the same areas as sonar testing, this type of research and new knowledge is critically important. Let us know if you do choose to participate. Call Bob Rocha at extension 149.

Odontocetes (Toothed Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises) Suffering Globally Due to Entanglement

A report released on Monday by the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, authored by Professor Boris Culik of Kiel University in Germany, depicts a very sad state of affairs for the toothed cetaceans in our oceans.  “The conservation status of toothed whales has worsened dramatically since 2001,” stated Dr. Culik.

Entanglement in gillnets, traps, weirs, purse seines, longlines and trawls are having a negative impact on 62 of the 72 species of toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises in our global ocean.  Unfortunately, if they steer clear of the nets and lines, they have to contend with water-borne pollution (including heavy metals, PCBs, DDT) and noise pollution.

We may have stopped deliberately hunting whales, but we haven’t stopped killing them.

How Do You Autopsy A Whale?

That question is the title of an article in Popular Science, which features recent Whaling Museum Trustee, Dr. Michael Moore.  Michael was part of the teams that did the necropsies for the Museum’s blue, sperm and right whales.

So, for those of you who wanted to know what happens when a whale washes ashore, you have an answer provided by an expert.

A mark of excellence

The American Association of Museums (AAM), Washington, D.C., announced the New Bedford Whaling Museum has earned reaccreditation at the most recent meeting of the Accreditation Commission. Accredited status from AAM is the highest national recognition achievable by an American museum.

In its announcement, AAM stated that reaccreditation is awarded only after a comprehensive yearlong examination and peer review of all aspects of the Whaling Museum’s mission, operations and programming. “Accreditation is emblematic of many things, the highest standards in museum operations, outstanding public programs, and long-term sustainability among them,” said Ford W. Bell, AAM president. “Accreditation is clearly a significant achievement. But put simply, it means the citizens of the communities served by these museums have in their midst one of America’s finest museums.”

In her letter to museum president, James Russell, Dr. Bonnie W. Styles, Chair of the AAM Accreditation Commission, wrote “We found the museum to be a highly performing organization that has a solid strategic plan, excellent community engagement and is dealing strategically and realistically with budget hardships. We particularly liked the three-tier intern apprenticeship program. The museum is also a good example of merging history and science together in exhibits and programming.”

Mr. Russell noted the importance of reaccreditation. “We are extremely proud of this achievement. It validates years of hard work on the part of our dedicated trustees, volunteers and staff – evaluated against the strictest professional and national standards. This honor elevates all of New Bedford and the South Coast region, and it reenergizes us in the continued building of a greater, stronger Whaling Museum,” he said.

AAM Accreditation recognizes the highest standards in individual museums and ensures that museums continue to uphold their public trust. Developed and sustained by museum professionals for 40 years, the AAM museum accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation and public accountability.