Whaling History Symposium, Oct. 19-20

WHS_2013_logoThe Old New Bedford Port District is the focus

The 37th Whaling History Symposium, to be held at the Museum on Saturday, October 19 and Sunday, October 20, 2013.

This year’s theme is the interdependence and integration of various communities and commercial interests in the New Bedford Port District and their relation to the whaling industry that was the main economic focus of the region. Maritime curator Michael Dyer will open the session with an overview history of “The New Bedford Outports,” the galaxy of seacoast towns lying between Cape Cod and Rhode Island that shared with New Bedford and Fairhaven the risks and prosperity of the whaling industry, and suffered together in its decline. Next up, Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr., one of America’s most celebrated ship modelers and a former curator at the Whaling Museum, will present “Whaleship Models: Research and Reconstruction,” describing the unique features of whaleship models and the challenges of building tem, and will provide a systematic examination of their value as historical documents, sublime aesthetic byproducts of local seafaring, and relics that pay homage to a unique maritime heritage. Mr. Ronnberg will be followed by Judith N. Lund, also a former curator of the Museum, to introduce the current exhibition “The Art of the Ship Model,” which she co-curated with J. Michael Wall.

Following a break for lunch, New Bedford historian, lighthouse preservationist and publicist Arthur Motta will speak about “Lighthouses of New Bedford” and their integration into the fabric of The Life and Times of the Whaling Capital, one of the nation’s greatest seaports.  This will be expanded upon by Dr. Stuart M. Frank, Senior Curator Emeritus, on “Beacons and Blubber: The Amos Baker Family and four generations of whaling, lighthouses, journals, watercolors, scrimshaw, and artifact collecting,” a pictorial extravaganza that delves deep into museum collections to explore the unusual history of this exemplary family of lighthouse keepers and whaling captains.  Capping the all-day plenary sessions will be the noted local historian Dr. Alfred Saulniers, addressing “Franco Americans in the New Bedford Whale Fishery, 1790-1910,” a little-known but crucial component community of participants in the city’s great Age of Sail.  To close out the day, Dr. Frank will introduce another current exhibition, “Harbor Views,” which focuses on visions of the estuary, waterfronts, and waterborne traffic by some of the most proficient and expressive local artists, from William Bradford and Albert Van Beest to L.D. Eldred and Clifford Ashley.

Scheduled for Sunday at 10:00 a.m. is an optional field-excursion: a waterborne harbor tour and special close-up narrated cruise around the port’s three historic lighthouses.

The Whaling History Symposium, first established in 1975, brings scholars, collectors, armchair historians, and interested nautical enthusiasts to New Bedford from all over the country and abroad, to share interests in maritime history, nautical lore, and the many intriguing facets of whaling heritage worldwide.  This time around, our own Home Port is the focus which, backed by sumptuous new exhibitions at the Museum, we find timely and compelling.

Registration: $50 for members and $65 for non-members (includes lunch and admission to all museum galleries) by October 15. Optional Lighthouse Harbor Tour, $10 additional. To register, call Pam Lowe, (508) 997-0046, ext. 100 or email: frontdesk@whalingmuseum.org

The Whaling History Symposium is made possible in part by the Samuel D. Rusitzky Fund.

Twitter hashtag: #WhalingHistorySymp37

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