Moby-Dick Marathon set records

A capacity crowd gathers in the Jacobs Family Gallery to hear the conclusion of Moby-Dick

The 16th Annual Moby-Dick Marathon is now one for the history books, in so many ways. High media interest and unseasonably warm weather for January encouraged record numbers of visitors to drop in for a look-see. Over the course of the weekend (January 6-8, 2012) more than 2,900 visitors came to the Museum. Many stayed and listened longer than ever before to the book often described as the greatest work of American literature.

Among the more than 150 readers, many notables particpated, including Congressman Barney Frank, Congressman William Keating, Mayor Jon Mitchell and several former New Bedford Mayors, as well as Peter Whittemore, the great, great grandson of Herman Melville.

Nearly 100 guests enjoyed the ticketed buffet dinner in the Jacobs Family Gallery on Friday evening (January 6), which kicked off a weekend of activities surrounding the Marathon.

Following dinner, a lecture titled “Moby-Dick in American Popular Culture,” presented by the Melville Society’s Dr. Timothy Marr (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), was attended by 187 Melville fans in the Cook Memorial Theater.

Melville Society scholars were kept busy with questions throughout the event, holding court in the Wattles Family Gallery, discussing all matters Moby-Dick and Melville. With much good humor, they were also peppered with perplexing queries of the widest sort, posed by the public in the Stump the Scholars II program on Saturday morning. General order and alacrity of the proceedings were ably kept by the moderator, Michael Dyer, Maritime Curator, with laughs aplenty throughout.

Congressman Barney Frank

One highlight of the weekend was a performance at the Seamen’s Bethel by the critically acclaimed tenor, Jonathan Boyd. He performed the hymn from Chapter 9 to music by Philip Sainton, penned for the film score for John Huston’s 1956 film. Boyd will star as “Greenhorn” in Jake Heggie’s new opera, “Moby Dick,” set to premiere at the San Diego Opera in February. A contingent of museum trustees and members will travel to the West Coast to see it.

Rev. Dr. Edward R. Dufresne delivered an inspired reading of Father Mapple’s sermon on Jonah and the Whale in the Bethel.

And again, this year’s Marathon was live streaming on the museum’s website and was viewed by unprecedented numbers; more on that in another post.

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