Wood Foundation awards $300K for 3-year initiative

Gunga Tavares, Cultural Attaché of the Office of the Consulate General of Cape Verde, speaks at the press conference.

Gunga Tavares, Cultural Attaché of the Office of the Consulate General of Cape Verde, speaks at the press conference.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has been awarded $300,000 from the William M. Wood Foundation over three years to support Lusophone initiatives. These initiatives will be geared towards new programming related to Azorean and Cape Verdean communities, museum president James Russell announced today at a noon press conference, which included trustees from the Wood Foundation, members of the Museum’s Portuguese and Cape Verdean Advisory committees, government officials and civic leaders.

The William M. Wood Foundation is a legacy of a grandson of William M. Wood (1858–1926), an immigrant from the Azores, whose father was an Azorean whaler on a New Bedford whale ship. His original named was William Silva. Wood began his career in textiles at the Wamsutta Mill, rising to become a textile magnate, eventually heading a mill conglomerate, which became the American Woolen Company.

The Foundation has supported the Museum since 2007 when it first funded Museum programs with a $25,000 grant. Since that time, it has awarded $310,000 in grants, and with today’s announcement its commitment will total $610,000 by 2014. The Trustees of the NBWM sincerely thanks Bank of America, Ed Condit and Rick Spaulding as trustees of the William Wood Foundation.

Additional funding for these programs comes from museum members, supporters of the Azorean Whaleman Gallery, the Fundação Luso-Americana, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and the Schrafft Charitable Trust. Major donors include Mr. and Mrs. John W. Braitmayer, Mr. James G. DeMello, Dr. and Mrs. Norbert P. Fraga, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Petitti, Mr. and Mrs. John C. Pinheiro, and WJFD-FM, Inc.

Overview of the Project

Today, many Portuguese and Cape Verdean Americans trace their roots back to those who manned whaling voyages. That New Bedford was the capital of that industry makes it a veritable “Portuguese Ellis Island.” An integrated exhibition, education and outreach package, “Yankee Baleeiros!” is a direct outcome of more than 14 years of collaboration between the Museum and New Bedford’s Portuguese and Cape Verdean communities. Baleeiros (Portuguese for whalers) builds on the historic connection between whaling and the Lusophone (Portuguese speaking) communities and offers a lens through which to explore larger humanities themes surrounding immigration, assimilation, cultural and ethnic identity, diversity, globalization and the pursuit of the American dream.

Top-Line Objectives and Goals

The twin objectives of “Yankee Baleeiros!” are: 1. Celebrate locally through exhibits and programs the accomplishments of the Cape Verdean and Portuguese community and orient the Museum as a place to showcase these rich traditions and heritages; 2. as a traveling exhibition to allow the Museum to extend the impact of its scholarship and interpretation to identified communities across the United States.

“Yankee Baleeiros!” will begin in January 2013, and continue through December 2015. Two committees at the Museum oversee the strategic direction of this project—the Portuguese Advisory and Cape Verdean Advisory Committees. Both committees are chaired by trustees and enjoy the full support of the consular and ambassadorial offices of both nations.

“Yankee Baleeiros!” has four major goals: 1. Upgrade the current permanent exhibitions on the Azores and Cape Verde with interactive and iconic elements as identified by the Advisory Committees; 2. Develop and present an adaptable travelling Lusophone exhibition; 3. Work with the Advisory Committees to present a robust and meaningful agenda of locally focused educational programs and community activities; 4. Develop digital initiatives and web content for both on-site and far reaching effect.

As of this announcement, the travelling exhibition will be presented at Mystic Seaport, Battleship Cove in Fall River, Herreshoff Marine Museum, Bristol R.I. Newark Museum, N.J., San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and the Portuguese Historical Museum, San José, Calif.

Related programming specified to-date includes publication of a major anthology, titled “The Dabneys: A Bostonian Family in the Azores, 1806-1871”; a comprehensive online database of crew members aboard New Bedford whale ships (in collaboration with the NB Port Society and the NB Free Public Library); development of Portuguese language audio tours of the museum; collaborative programming and support for the Azorean Maritime Heritage Society and the 6th International Azorean Whaleboat Regatta; construction of a ½ scale Azorean whaleboat by master shipwright João Tavares from the island of Pico; an international symposium to coincide with the arrival of the whale ship, Charles W. Morgan, and three years of onsite community programs celebrating Lusophone culture and its impact on the growth of America.

Historical Background

Whaling from New Bedford had pronounced participation by Portuguese speaking people that resulted in the broad dispersal of Portuguese islanders in the U.S., with large communities settling in New London, Honolulu, San Francisco, San Diego, and western Alaska. It was on whaling voyages that the first Azorean and Cape Verdean mariners joined American crew. Early on, ships used the islands of the Atlantic as a regular leg of transatlantic travel. George Washington established a U.S. consulate in the Azores as early as 1795 due to the islands’ strategic importance to the young nation’s maritime commerce.

Subsequently, America’s diplomatic ties with Cape Verde, St. Helena, Peru, Chile, Tahiti, Hawaii, New South Wales, Tasmania, and New Zealand enabled Yankee whaling agents to plan their global enterprise. As the industry grew so did its Portuguese-speaking crews, as many vessels first headed for the Azores and Cape Verde where captains often recruited islanders to fill out a ship’s company.

Fifteen Years of Commitment

Boosted by a remarkable $500,000 gift from the Government of Portugal in 1998, the Whaling Museum’s trustees and advisors embarked on 15 years of programs and exhibits related to Lusophone themes. It continues to expand its permanent galleries to interpret the shared maritime heritage of local communities rooted in the Portuguese-speaking islands as part of a comprehensive and inclusive story of the region’s history.

In 2000 a protocol was signed between the Museum and the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, followed by a second protocol in 2012 with two branches of the National Park Service New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park (NBWNHP), San Francisco Maritime National Park (SFMNP) and the Regional Government of the Azores. These protocols commit to a spirit of multi-year joint programming among all the entities. The Museum expects to sign a similar “Framework of Cooperation” with the Government of Cape Verde in early 2013.

The Azorean Whaleman Gallery (2010) and Cape Verdean Maritime Exhibit (2011) feature in-depth bilingual content. In 2012, they were augmented with “A Voyage Around the World,” an adjacent exhibit highlighting other major areas of historic whaling influenced by the Luso-whalers in Brazil, Polynesia, Hawaii, California, the northwest coast of North America and the Western Arctic.

Multimedia technology plays a central role in programs, exhibits and web-based teaching content, providing an economical, high-impact method for K-12 standards-based educational programming as well as in symposia, lectures and cultural events.

The Portuguese Advisory and Cape Verdean Advisory Committees oversee the strategic direction of the 3-year initiative, with the support of the consular and ambassadorial offices of both nations.

Members include: Dr. Graca Fonseca, Consul of Portugal in New Bedford; Dr. Pedro Graciano de Carvalho, Consul-General of Cape Verde in Boston; Rep. Antonio F. D. “Tony” Cabral, Massachusetts House of Representatives 13th Bristol District; Patricia Andrade, MD, co-chair, Cape Verdean Advisory Committee, museum trustee and general surgeon, St. Luke’s Hospital; Eugene Monteiro, co-chair, Cape Verdean Advisory Committee, museum trustee and former Chief Probation Officer, Bristol Superior Court; John Pinheiro, co-chair, Portuguese Advisory Committee, former museum trustee, founding member and AMHS past president; Brian Rothschild, Ph.D., co-chair, Portuguese Advisory Committee, former museum trustee and professor, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMD).

Scholarship Advisors include: Onesimo Almeida, Ph.D., Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, Brown University; Prof. Carlos Almeida, Portuguese Lecturer, UMD and advisor to the Cape Verdean Student Association; Nora Ganim Barnes, Ph.D., Chancellor Professor of Marketing, Charlton College of Business, Director, UMD Center for Marketing Research Marcia Dutra, guest curator from the University of the Azores; Marilyn Halter, Professor of History, Director of Graduate Studies, American and New England Studies Research Associate, Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs (CURA), Boston University; Dr. Frank Sousa, Professor of Portuguese and Director, UMD Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture; Gunga Tavares, Cultural Attaché, Office of the Consulate General of Cape Verde; Miguel Vaz, Director, Fundação Luso-Americana; Timothy Walker, Ph.D. Associate Professor of History & Associate Director, UMD Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture; Donald Warrin, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley.

Museum Advisory Committee members include: Thomas Alves, founding member, Azorean Maritime Heritage Society (AMHS) and past president of the Prince Henry Society, New Bedford Chapter; Candida Rose Baptista, museum trustee and professional Cape Verdean vocalist; Ron Barboza, Cape Verdean photographer; Manuel Branco, member of the museum’s National Leadership Council; William do Carmo, museum trustee, president of Carmo & Associates, Consultants, Real Estate and Construction; Carl Cruz, former museum trustee and past president of the Ernestina-Morrissey Historical Association; James G. DeMello, retired President and CEO of Acushnet Rubber Co. and member of St. Luke’s Business Council, Southcoast Hospitals Group; Hon. Armand Fernandes, museum trustee and retired judge, Bristol County Probate Court; Elsie and Norbert Fraga; Jack Livramento, New Bedford School Committee member; Jennifer Nersesian, Superintendent, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park; Alda Petitti, past director, CBIZ Tofias, past director of the Portuguese American Leadership Council of the United States; Victor Pinheiro, former city councilor, founding member and current AMHS president; Jose Soares, president of Baystate Drywall and leader of the Azorean whaleboat project.

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