Maritime Curator presents at 4th Whaling History Symposium

Kendall Whaling Museum alumni Michael Dyer, Joost Schokkenbroek and Hayato Sakurai all presented at Sndefjord whaling history conference this June.

Kendall Whaling Museum alumni Michael Dyer, Joost Schokkenbroek and Hayato Sakurai all presented at Sandefjord whaling history conference this June.

This conference, which took place June 20-21, was organized under the auspices of Vestfold Museums and the Hvalfangstmuseet of Sandefjord. There were about forty attendees from thirteen nations. It took place at the Clarion Atlantic Hotel in Sandefjord, a large facility entirely decorated with installations of modern whaling equipment, art and architectural elements amassed as the personal collection of the hotel’s owner. Sixteen papers were selected for presentation from a pool of over thirty-five submissions in the call for papers – their largest response to date. Part of the reason for the large response is that the proceedings are published in an esteemed and useful hard-bound format.

Several of the papers were in direct response to previous articles published in the proceedings of previous symposia and collectively are building a body of work on certain subjects including the history of science and Soviet whaling. This kind of accrued knowledge effectively creates the sort of intellectual environment attractive to scholars. Additionally the opportunity for like-minded scholars, curators, enthusiasts and students to gather, talk and exchange ideas in a convivial atmosphere was one of greatest benefit and stated by the organizers to be of equal importance to the presentations. Many of the presenters had used the resources of the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library and while all agreed that the resources were wonderful, most were more impressed with the level of service and professional assistance that they received while visiting in person. This is not the case in many research facilities according to several people.
Several of the papers dealt with modern whaling, as one might image. Alex Aguilar’s paper on the shore station of the Iberian Peninsula in the 20th century was particularly insightful with new analysis of the successes and failures of these shore stations.

Hayato Sakurai gave a superb overview of the history of the Taiji Whale Museum that combined town and national politics, public relations, whales, whaling and tourism. Oral history, general regional references and one particularly interesting paper on the history of whaling at Santa Catarina Island in Brazil contributed to a well-rounded look at the subjects.

Throughout the conference, the questions of globalization, global economic interactions, global environmental impacts and whaling as important driver of 19th and 20th century international affairs came to the fore. Both the U.S.A. and Norway had strong influences on other nations through whaling. This was a very academic symposium with few papers addressing collections, museums and their influence, or other such non-paper-based research projects.

Dyer’s was the final paper of the symposium. Entitled “Why black whales are called right whales” it combined art, history, biology and the history of science into one large humanities-based analysis of language, whaling and taxonomy in relationship to the world’s most endangered whale, Eubalaena glacialis.

The proceedings are due to be published next year.

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