Author Archives: New Bedford Whaling Museum blog

New Digital Archive Underway

This article reprinted from the “Bulletin from Johnny Cake Hill”, Summer 2010 (by Michael Lapides, Director of Digital Initiatives / Photo Curator)

The Adaline H. Perkins Rand Photography Archives is now the Adaline H. Perkins Rand  Photography and Digital Archives; an expanded name for an expanded mission. This name change represents the merger of the existing Photography Department with the new Department of Digital Initiatives. But what is a New Bedford Whaling Museum digital initiative, and why would it need a department of its own? Further, why is the digital archive linked to the photography archive; what is the connection?

Today’s Digital Era, characterized in part by an explosion of media types and applications, leads us to recognize the need for an institutional archive dedicated to electronic files. Linking of the Digital and Photographic Archives began as a result of a shared dependance on and connection to technology.

Within the Photography Archives, the history of photography can be viewed as a series of technological advancements. Arguably, over the last 170 plus years, there has been no greater shift in how photographs are made, or distributed, than what we have experienced recently. Silver based film has given way to electronic capture and digital media, and through the growth of the internet, the computer monitor now challenges for primacy in how people encounter museum collections. Currently there are more online visitors than visitors through our front doors, and this gap will only continue to grow as our web-based content increases along with our ability to create and manage it. The Department of Digital Initiatives recognizes that we must continue to create and sustain compelling content for this growing audience.

A broad definition of a digital initiative would be any project, process, or enterprise that is computer borne, or has migrated to the computer, and that improves access to museum collections, information, programs, or products. Much as Gutenberg’s printing press altered civilization forever, now the computer, through the web, changes how information and knowledge are created and shared. The web, like the printing press before it, substantially increases the distribution of all kinds of information, including access to primary source materials as well as related scholarship.

Continue reading

Books and Libraries in the Digital Age

“Books and Libraries in the Digital Age” , hosted by the MIT Communications Forum on Oct 16, 2008.

A  fascinating  discussion about the relationship between emerging technologies, primary source research, and libraries. (Run time, 1:54 minutes, takes a while to get to the meat of the topic). Posted online via MIT World™, a free and open site that provides on demand video of significant public events at MIT.

“Perhaps because he is a historian rather than librarian by training, Robert Darnton regards the vast ocean of digital information that civilization has begun accumulating with relish rather than anxiety. Darnton delves into European archives to find raw material, boxes of cast-off “ephemera,” for his stories of how people lived hundreds of years ago. No wonder he believes “it’s important to preserve as much as you can because you don’t know what will turn out to be significant.”

In conversation with David Thorburn and audience members, Darnton lays out why he finds more promise than peril in rapidly expanding digital collections.”

Emoji translation of Moby-dick

Kickstarter is a web-based fund-raising vehicle based on crowd-sourcing; the project below was posted there by Fred Benenson. As a result of 83 separate backers contributing $3,676 he will produce a never-before-released translation of Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick in Japanese emoji icons.

Here’s an example of an Emoji sentence from Moby Dick:

Read more about Fred’s Emoji Dick Project at Kickstarter.

Your Comments Sought, Help to Create our “Standard Times Collection, 1895-1925″ Photo Exhibit

Opening this July in our 3rd floor Special Exhibits Gallery, and in the adjacent San Francisco Room, is the “Standard Times Collection, 1895-1925″ photo exhibit.  There are currently 44 images under consideration and represented in this flickr set and the mosaic below, we need cut this number to under 30.

Another pre-view of the upcoming photo exhibit from the wall of the Photo Archive

It is not too late to influence what ends in the exhibit. Which images are your favorites? Join our flickr discussion or comment directly on individual flickr photo pages. One needs to have an account (standard accounts are free) to place comments within flickr. If you’d prefer simply view the photos within flickr and tell us what you think via e-mail to

Your Comments Sought, Help to Create our “Standard Times Collection, 1895-1925” Photo Exhibit

Opening this August, in our 3rd floor Special Exhibits Gallery, and in the adjacent San Francisco Room, will be the “Standard Times Collection, 1895-1925” photo exhibit.  There are currently 44 images under consideration and represented in this flickr set and the mosaic below, we need cut this number to under 30.

It is not too late to influence what ends in the exhibit. Which images are your favorites? Join our flickr discussion or comment directly on individual flickr photo pages. One needs to have an account (standard accounts are free) to place comments within flickr. If you’d prefer simply view the photos within flickr and tell us what you think via e-mail to

Your favorites? Comments Sought.

New Bedford Whaling Museum is fortunate to hold, through gifts of The Standard-Times newspaper, Everett S. Allen, and John D. Wilson, a collection of dry-plate glass negatives that were originally used to illustrate stories in the New Bedford Standard, forerunner to the Standard-Times. The earliest of these negatives were used as part of the nascent halftone printing process, which newspapers used to bring photographs to an increasingly image hungry readership.

This exhibit will examine newsworthy people, events, and places in the New Bedford region during the transitional decades that saw the end of the horse-and-buggy era and the emergence of a modern city.

ORAL HISTORIES – Revisiting the past through personal reflections

by New Bedford Whaling Museum volunteer Clif Rice

Beyond its treasure trove of physical objects, paintings, photographs, ship’s logs and sailor’s diaries, the museum is rapidly developing digital resources to help preserve and interpret the region’s rich and colorful past. “We are dedicated to searching for ways to broaden overall access to our collections and to connect to wider audiences.” according to Michael Lapides, who heads the Digital Initiatives Department.

One of these resources involves building a program of oral histories – personal reflections of people who have vivid, colorful memories of social, cultural, and maritime history. New interviews will add to recordings made years and even decades ago.

Through extensive planning and research by library volunteer and archivist Jalien Hollister, over 100 hours of existing oral histories, conducted since the 1960’s were identified and had their catalogued improved to increase accessibility. New processes were defined and implemented so that future oral history recordings will be conducted consistently and help complement existing material.

Joining us on the all-volunteer production and interview teams are Nancy Thornton, Adam Gonsalves, and Sally Brownell. Interviews are conducted as informal conversations, and recorded on professional digital equipment. Plans are to excerpt and cross-reference interview content so information can supplement on-line and physical exhibits, or be used in other programs.

In a recent interview, Roberta Sawyer, a lifetime resident at Round Hill in South Dartmouth, described life at the secluded end of Smith Neck in the 1930’s. Many of her recollections centered on Colonel Green. Roberta talked about how her father landed a small plane on Colonel Green’s farm field at Round Hill, and was asked by Green to establish and run a private airfield on his estate. Besides aviation, Green had sweeping interests in agriculture, science, photography, automobiles, and education. He established a broadcast facility and later built the memorable “martini-glass” satellite dish. He later hosted faculty and students from MIT to conduct research there.

Besides establishing the bark Charles W. Morgan in a special berth at Round Hill, Green built a reproduction of the ship’s tryworks and deck, opening these exhibits to the public. Although his family resided at Round Hill only months of the year, many remember the eccentricities and uniqueness of the Greens, especially their chauffeured limousines.

We welcome suggestions for potential interviewees, and new volunteers to the Oral Histories Project. Please contact Michael Lapides, Photo Curator and Director of Digital Initiatives ( or 508-997-0046 x131).

For more information on becoming a volunteer call 508 717-6823, or visit our website

“Wave Glider: Expanding our Ability to Listen to Whales”

“Wave Glider: Expanding our Ability to Listen to Whales” with Joe Rizzi

“The Man and Whales Lecture Series” continues April 14, at 7:30 pm

Studying whales is a rewarding but daunting task.  Whales may be big, but the ocean is bigger and the weather doesn’t always cooperate.  Providing a complete picture of the animals and the habitat requires collaboration, technology and ingenuity.
Joseph Rizzi, Chairman of the Jupiter Foundation, got together in his early retirement with a small group of very talented friends to create programmable, mobile technology for listening to whales.  Joe’s presentation is a story about how listening to whales inspired the invention of an elegant device that will not only enable further whale studies, but could become a host-platform for a wide range of previously impossible oceanic applications.

The lecture starts at 7:30 pm in the Museum Theater.
A reception at 6:30 pm is held in the Jacobs Family Gallery before the lecture.
Admission is FREE.

Ken Hartnett concludes The Irish Experience Lecture Series, “The Irish Rebel, John Boyle O’Reilly”

Ken Hartnett concludes The Irish Experience Lecture Series on Thursday with “The Irish Rebel, John Boyle O’Reilly”

Ken Hartnett photo by Ken Smith

Thursday, April 8 at 8:00 p.m. in Museum Theater

This final lecture in the series examines the activities of 19th Century Irish rebel and writer John Boyle O’Reilly. In 1869, O’Reilly escaped imprisonment in Australia with the help of the New Bedford whaler “Gazelle.” Later, from his new home in Boston, he helped organize the daring Catalpa expedition to liberate jailed Fenian comrades from their British captors. The story of the twin rescues makes O’Reilly a memorable figure, one who will be forever remembered for his immense courage and solid principles.
Ken Hartnett is an experienced news correspondent and author of the novel “A Saving Grace.” He was the editor of the New Bedford Standard-Times and Boston Magazine and was a news executive for WCVB and WGBH television in Boston. The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick is partnering with the Whaling Museum to present this lecture series.

To RSVP, call Pam Lowe, Visitor Services 508-997-0046, ext. 100.

Admission is free.

“Photographs of Houses and Public Buildings…” by Palmer and Worth

The New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library, located on 791 Purchase Street, contains a beautiful leather-bound volume titled “Photographs of Houses and Public Buildings in New Bedford, Fairhaven, Acushnet, Dartmouth and Westport.”  This unpublished volume, donated to the Society in 1907 by Herbert and Anna Cushman, contains photographs by Fred W. Palmer and text by local historian Henry B. Worth, who collaborated to document the oldest buildings still standing in the original township of Old Dartmouth.

The idea to recreate this book online, in order to bring it to a wider audience, came to us from local historian Bob Maker, who recently completed transcribing the entire text. Working with him to prepare images, and to improve the museum’s cataloging of the photographs, is NBWM volunteer Penny Cole.

West end of the old Ricketson house

This project runs through the NBWM’s Departments of Digital Initiatives, Photography, and the Research Library and is supported in part by grants from the Dartmouth and Fairhaven Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Beginning in 1904, Fred Palmer began taking photographs of over two hundred buildings in Old Dartmouth with construction dates ranging from the late 1600s to the 1840s. The photographs are predominantly exterior shots of individual residential buildings. They are currently held in their original form as nitrate and glass negatives in the Adaline H. Perkins Rand Photo & Digital Archive, located in the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library. There are a few residential interiors, a scattering of shots of public buildings, and a few streetscapes in New Bedford. In many cases, Palmer’s photographs are the only known images, especially for buildings outside downtown New Bedford.

Henry Worth visited and meticulously researched each of the buildings in the collection. He traced property deeds back to the very earliest records. He consulted town meeting records, maps and other documentary sources. He also interviewed property owners and descendants of builders and earlier owners. Worth’s text combines information from all these sources with his own extensive knowledge of architectural styles and construction techniques. He was a significant figure in the earliest history of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, the governing body of The New Bedford Whaling Museum. He wrote the annual “Report of the Historical Research Section” from 1904 to 1911, and authored a number of the early Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches.

We are in the process of building a set of images on flickr that represents these historic photographs.

New Bedford Cordage Co, New Bedford MA. Records, 1839-1968

Uncovered from within a large box named “Industries”, and removed from folders just long enough to be properly cataloged within our database, were a group of 16  New Bedford Cordage Company photographs (Mss 1).  The full collection, housed both in the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library  and  the Adaline H. Perkins Rand Photographic and Digital Archives,  includes much more than this small group of photographs.

A stage in the manufacturing of rope. "Feed end of Spreader" (Photo by Joseph G. Tirrell)

Records of company directors and stockholders (1848-1958) including correspondence, minutes, reports, deeds and bills of sale for land or ships purchased by the firm, tax appraisals, and proposals relating to the company’s physical plant; correspondence, general accounts, employee’s wage book, and production and sales records reflecting the firm’s manufacture of binder twine, transmission rope, rope cables, and nylon rope for U.S. and world markets; product catalogs and advertisements (ca. 1911-1958); articles of organization of Cordage Institute, a national trade organization; and memoir and newspaper clippings concerning the history of the company. Includes information relating to National Cordage Company and Travers Brothers Company, both in New York, N.Y. Persons represented include Francis A. Bryant and Martin Walter, Jr., presidents of the company.

Original funds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Coach with two large rolls of cordage in front of the New Bedford Cordage Company. (Photo by Joseph G. Tirrell)

Visit our flickr set to view all photos in this collection.