Author Archives: whaleblog

Kenn Harper closes 2013 Old Dartmouth Lyceum series

(NEW BEDFORD, Mass.)  — Historian, linguist and writer, Kenn Harper will present an illustrated lecture titled  “Inuit and Whaling in the Bradford Era”, the final program of the 2013 Old Dartmouth Lyceum lecture series, on Thursday, November 14 at 7:00 p.m., Cook Memorial Theater, New Bedford Whaling Museum.

The Lyceum has focused on the many local connections to nineteenth century Arctic exploration with emphasis on the work of Fairhaven artist William Bradford as seen in the exhibit “Arctic Visions: Away then Floats the Ice-Island” in the museum’s Wattles Family Gallery. The exhibit runs through October 24, 2014.

Kenn Harper will examine how the whaling industry had a profound effect on the culture of Inuit in both Canada and Greenland and he will discuss this impact, its effect on Inuit life, and Inuit adaptation to the stresses and demands of change. He will recount epi­sodes from the lives of particular Inuit who used the whaling industry to their own advantage.

Harper has lived in the Arctic (both Greenland and Canada) for the past 47 years. He writes a weekly column under the name “Taissumani” for Nunatsiaq News, the newspaper of record for Nunavut, Canada, and is the author of “Give Me My Father’s Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo.”

The evening begins at 6:00 p.m. with a reception in the Jacobs Family Gallery followed by the lecture at 7:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater. Admission: $15 (non-members, $20). The Wattles Family Gallery will be open during the reception.

Sponsored by Nye Lubricants and Bruce and Karen Wilburn, the Old Dartmouth Lyceum is the region’s old­est public forum for “the advancement of popular education.”

Tweet hashtag: #ODLyceum2013

Building a Transformative Experience

Trustees select Mount Vernon Group Architects to design the new Educational Center and Research Library

The Board of Trustees enthusiastically selected Mount Vernon Group Architects to design the new Educational Center and Research Library on Johnny Cake Hill. Groundbreaking is slated for spring 2014. Preliminary sketches reveal the character of the Johnny Cake Hill, Water Street and Union Street facades. The building will connect to the existing Museum campus and be constructed in a site left vacant since the devastating gas explosion of 1977. The building will house new classrooms, a digital Reading Room, climate controlled spaces for collections, a laboratory for the flagship Apprenticeship Program and the Casa dos Botes. The 4th floor will encompass a multi-use assembly area with majestic views of the New Bedford Harbor. The $6 million construction project has 80% of funds committed.

View from Johnny Cake Hill

View from Water St

View from Union St.

Established in 1954, Mount Vernon Group is an award-winning designer of educational buildings. MVG’s local ties and proven record of designing customized educational spaces, as well as its understanding of the Museum’s educational goals, make it the ideal choice to design the space that will transform the Museum and prepare it for the next 100 years.

For more information on the Campaign to Build the Educational Center and Research Library, please contact Alison Smart, Senior Director of Development, at (508) 717-6815. View from Johnny Cake Hill View from Water Street View from Union Street

From the Vault: Journal Kept Onboard the Newport’s 1892 Voyage

Every piece in the Library has its own unique story to tell, and we invite you to look at a few of the thousands of materials and hear their tales through the Museum’s “From the Vault”, a new digital exhibit featuring different treasures from the Library.

In 1978, Mr. and Mrs. George Bodfish donated to the Research Library a collection of manuscripts and photographs relating to Hartson Hartlett Bodfish (1862 – 1945), a captain of thirteen Western Arctic whaling voyages during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This donation also came with several logbooks and journals penned by Bodfish himself that document his whaling exploits. One of these journals contains a partial account of the Newport’s 1892 – 1898 whaling voyage. The journal begins on August 21, 1893 and represents an important chapter of American whaling history.

The rest of the story.

Old Dartmouth Lyceum lecture series

Thursdays, September 19th, October 3rd & 24th, November 14th
This year the Old Dartmouth Lyceum lecture series will focus around the exhibit Arctic Visions: “Away then Floats the Ice-Island”. The Series takes place Thursday evenings on September 19th, October 3rd and 24th, and November 14th. Receptions in the Jacobs Family Gallery begin at 6:00 pm. Lectures in the Cook Memorial Theater begin at 7:00 pm.  Tickets are now on sale. See below for more information about the individual lectures and registration information.

A detail from the painting titled "View of the Sermitsialik Glacier" by William Bradford

A detail from the painting titled “View of the Sermitsialik Glacier” by William Bradford

September 19th
Russell Potter
Frozen Zones: Bradford, Arctic Photography and nineteenth-century Visual Culture
Mr. Potter teaches English and Media Studies at Rhode Island College in Providence, Rhode Island. His work encompasses hip hop culture, popular music, and the history of exploration of the Arctic in the nineteenth century. When the artist William Bradford chartered a voyage to the Arctic purely for the purposes of art – including photographers – he was revolutionizing both the scope and the immediacy of photography, bringing back a rich array of images, the first ever taken of Arctic by professional photographers. These photos he put to many uses –projected as lantern slide lectures, printed and used as view-books for painting commissions, and – most magnificently – as illustrations for the groundbreaking book The Arctic Regions.

October 3rd
Kevin Avery
Sea of Ice:  The Art of Arctic Exploration
Mr. Avery is a senior research scholar and a former associate curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an adjunct professor in the art department of Hunter College, City University of New York. He will review the history of Arctic exploration in painting and illustration, with special reference to nineteenth-century artists and illustrators leading up to Frederic Church and New Bedford’s William Bradford.  Dr. Avery will reveal known or probable sources in the history of western imagery applied to the visualization of the alien landscape that was and, to most, still is the Arctic regions.

October 24th
Douglas Wamsley​
William Bradford’s 1869 Expedition, in Context with Arctic Travels of the 19th Century
Mr. Wamsley,  an independent scholar and attorney who has written extensively on the history of 19th century Arctic exploration. His most recent work is a biography, Polar Hayes, on the life and accomplishments of Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes, a participant in Bradford’s 1869 Greenland voyage. In 1869, a sailing excursion along the northwest coast of Greenland was not a venture to be taken lightly.  However, William Bradford’s voyage ably succeeded in navigating those ice-laden waters that year, while at the same time capturing vivid images of the “Frozen Zone”. This lecture recounts the history of that memorable expedition and its proper place in the broader context of 19th century arctic travels.

November 14th
Kenn Harper
Inuit and Whaling in the Bradford Era
Mr. Harper is a historian, linguist and writer, who has lived in the Arctic (both Greenland and Canada) for the past 47 years. He writes a weekly history column under the name Taissumani for Nunatsiaq News, the newspaper of record for Nunavut, Canada, and is the author of Give Me My Father’s Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo. He will speak on the whaling industry and the profound effect on the culture of Inuit in both Canada and Greenland. He will examine this impact, its effect on Inuit life, and Inuit adaptation to the stresses and demands of change and recount episodes from the lives of particular Inuit who used the whaling industry to their own advantage.

Buy Tickets Here or register by phone at  508-997-0046 ext. 100.
$15.00 per lecture (non-members, $20)
$50.00 for series (non-members, $75)

Old Dartmouth Lyceum is sponsored by Nye Lubricants and Bruce and Karen Wilburn.

Tweet hashtag: #ODLyceum2013

Scrimshaw Weekend features opening scrimshaw exhibit, May 11-13

Scrimshaw experts, collectors and fans from around the world will gather for the 23rd Annual Scrimshaw Weekend at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, May 11-13, which features three days of activities including the opening of a new permanent exhibit on Sunday, May 13 at 2:00 p.m. of the world’s largest scrimshaw collection, titled “Scrimshaw: Shipboard Art of the Whalers.”

Scrimshaw removed from storage prior to placement in new Scrimshaw Gallery

The weekend kicks off on Friday, May 11, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. with the third annual Nautical Antiques Show featuring for sale high quality marine antiques including scrimshaw, nautical instruments and tools, whaling logbooks, ship models, photos, paintings, prints, New Bedford memorabilia, and more in the Jacobs Family Gallery. Entry fee to the Nautical Antiques Show only is $5, or free with museum admission or membership.

On Friday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., a cocktail reception in the Dutch Gallery will include a VIP preview of the new scrimshaw exhibit.

On Saturday, May 12, registration begins at 9:00 a.m. with plenary sessions starting at 10:00 a.m., to include, “William Sizer, Scrimshaw Artist: A Comprehensive Review” with John Miklos (Chicago); “The Latest Scrimshavological Forensic Analysis of the Anonymous and Mysterious Mantelpiece Maker,” with Donald C. Boger, M.D. (Los Angeles); “Remarks on Scrimshaw,” with Captain Thomas Conley (Chicago); buffet luncheon in the Jacobs Family Gallery.

Saturday afternoon sessions include “Scrimshaw: The Artist’s Eye,” with Ryan Cooper, scrimshaw artist (Cape Cod); “Market Report” with Andrew Jacobson (Ipswich, Mass.); “The California Penal Code and the California Crackdown,” with James Vaccarino, J.D., Scrimshaw Forensics® team; a panel discussion on the California Crackdown, with  Hon. Paul E. Vardeman, J.D. (Kansas City), Ken Brown (San Francisco), Rod Cardoza (San Diego), Chuck DeLuca (York, Maine and San Rafael, Calif.), Andrew Jacobson, and Stuart M. Frank, Ph.D. (moderator).

At 5:30 p.m., a cash bar will be followed by a banquet dinner at 7:00 p.m. in the Jacobs Family Gallery. The evening’s keynote, titled “Matchmaking” will be presented by Jack H.T. Chang, M.D. (Denver) at 8:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater.

On Sunday, May 13 at 10:30 a.m.: A Salute to Don Ridley: “Scrimshaw Fakes, Dangerous and Not So Dangerous,” with Stuart M. Frank in the Cook Memorial Theater; 11:15 a.m., VIP tour and discussion of “Seven Continents, Seven Seas,” with Stuart Frank, Wattles Family Gallery; lunch is on your own.

On Sunday at 2:00 p.m., a new exhibit, “Scrimshaw: Shipboard Art of the Whalers” opens to the public. The largest permanent exhibit of its kind, it coincides with the launch of a major new book on scrimshaw, titled “Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved: Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum.” by Stuart M. Frank. Published by David R. Godine, Boston, this definitive 400-page reference to the world’s largest scrimshaw collection includes more than 700 photographs by Richard Donnelly. Dr. Frank will be available to sign copies of the book. Light refreshments will be served.

Registration fee for Scrimshaw Weekend includes admission to the museum, all open galleries, nautical antiques show, all plenary sessions, Scrimshaw VIP Preview, exhibit opening, book launch, all scheduled meals, and refreshments: $370 (museum members $330). Tickets to Saturday’s banquet only: $75 each.

Admission to the Sunday opening of the scrimshaw exhibit and book launch only: regular admission rates apply. In honor of Mother’s Day, mothers are admitted free when accompanied by at least one member of her family.

For more information or to register, please contact visitor services at (508) 997-0046, ext. 100 or email: For the full schedule of events and program updates, please visit the museum website,

Special hotel room rates are available for Scrimshaw Weekend attendees. Call for details: Fairfield Inn and Suites New Bedford (Tel. 774.634.2000), and Hampton Inn New Bedford/Fairhaven (Tel. 508.990.8500).

The New Bedford Whaling Museum gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Northeast Auctions, LLC of Portsmouth, NH, and the Maine Antique Digest.


Whaling Museum presents 27th annual award to Norwegian scholar

Lyman B. Waterman, Jr. (left) presented Dr. Bjørn Basberg (right) of Bergen, Norway, with the 27th annual L. Byrne Waterman Award during the 36th annual Whaling History Symposium

The New Bedford Whaling Museum announced today the presentation of the 27th annual L. Byrne Waterman Award to Dr. Bjørn Basberg, an industrial archaeologist, distinguished historian, and professor of economics at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration in Bergen, Norway.

The award was established in 1985 at the Kendall Whaling Museum in Sharon, Massachusetts, by Lyman Byrne Waterman, Sr., of Baltimore, Maryland, and was transferred to the New Bedford Whaling Museum in 2001 when the two museums merged collections.  The award has been presented each October at the museum’s annual Whaling History Symposium, “in recognition of outstanding contributions to research and pedagogy in the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences,” and has been called the Nobel Prize of Whaling History. Lyman B. Waterman, Jr. presented the award.

Professor Basberg travelled from Norway to speak at this year’s symposium on “Mapping and Recording the Norwegian Antarctic Whaling Stations onSouth Georgia” but was not informed before hand that he was designated to receive the award.  He spoke in the morning and was surprised by the afternoon presentation of the award, which cited his “outstanding contributions, in action and in print, to the industrial and economic history, archaeology, and preservation of historic whaling sites inSouth Georgia.” This was in acknowledgment of his having surveyed, charted, mapped, and published extensively about the once thriving but now abandoned complex of Norwegian and Anglo-Norwegian shore-whaling factories on the island of South Georgia, the threshold of Antarctica.  Industrial-scale whaling was prosecuted there by Norwegian and British interests throughout the twentieth century, until the 1960s.  And, famously, it was there in 1917 that Ernest Shackleton’s failed polar expedition fetched up on their heroic open-boat escape from the Antarctic ice.

Professor Basberg has been an Advisory Curator visiting Fellow on several prior occasions at both whaling museums.  He also been a visiting scholar at Brown University, has co-hosted two international whaling history symposia in Norway, and serves on the governing board of the British foundation charged with preserving the historic sites and natural environment of South Georgia, including the world’s southernmost museum.  In fact, the founding director of theSouth Georgia Museum, W. Nigel Bonner, was the recipient of a posthumous Waterman Award in 1994.  Among Waterman laureates when the award was still at the Kendall are two Dr. veterans of the New Bedford Whaling Museum staff, John R. Bockstoce (1992) and Virginia M. Adams (1996).  Other Waterman Award recipients include artist/naturalist Richard Ellis (1991), bestselling historians Joan Druett (1999), Nathaniel Philbrick (2001), and Eric Jay Dolin (2007), and the late scientist William E. Schevill of Woods Hole, the first to record whale “songs” in their natural habitat (1988).

The Whaling History Symposium, founded in 1975, is the world’s only regular international forum for the presentation and discussion of new ideas, pioneering research, and fresh insights into the history, fine arts, humanities, and sciences of whales and whaling. It is made possible in part by the Samuel D. Rusitzky Fund.

36th Annual Whaling History Symposium webpage.

NBWM Teen Apprentice Program

Recruiting for our teen apprentice program:

The New Bedford Whaling Museum Apprenticeship program offers an opportunity to high school students with an interest in a variety of topics, who excel academically and express interest in gaining work and college readiness experience, while earning a competitive wage. The Apprenticeship program will use museum resources as well as those of regional academic and scientific institutions to increase the knowledge base and practical experiences of high school students in New Bedford while enhancing their preparedness to continue their studies in these topics upon entering college. Full text of the descriptive letter can be found below.

NBWM Apprenticeship Letter Fall_2011

2011_2012 NBWM Apprentice Application

The program takes place during two sessions during the academic year and one summer session. The school year sessions will run from September – January and February – May. Students will work from 3:00 – 5:00 during these sessions, four days a week. The summer session will take place over eight weeks from July – August, with students working from 10:00 – 4:00.

Interested students should fill out an application form and return it, and a copy of the most recent report card, by Sept 21, to:
Robert Rocha, Science Director, New Bedford Whaling Museum, 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA 02740, or to the
Dean of Students / Co-op Coordinator / College and Career Advisor at your school

For further information contact Mr. Rocha, (508) 717-6849 or

Whaling Museum & Zeiterion launch “Moby!” partnership

Whaling Museum & Zeiterion  launch “Moby!” partnership

The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center and the New Bedford Whaling Museum have announced a coordinated partnership designed to heighten New Bedford’s profile as a cultural and historical destination utilizing “Moby-Dick” as a universal identifier for the city in a four-month program titled “Moby!”.

The partnership between two of New Bedford’s leading cultural institutions will focus on author Herman Melville’s 1851 novel, “Moby-Dick,” considered the greatest work in American literature. During four months of related programs and activities, “Moby!” will encompass the many facets of Melville’s creation, spanning whaling history, literature, theater, and popular culture.

“Moby!” Schedule:

Wednesday, October 19
Moby! Preview: “Why Read Moby-Dick?”
Lecture and book signing with Nathaniel Philbrick. Free. Sponsored by Baker Books.

Thursday, November 3
Welcome Reception for the Mayor of Youghal, County Cork, Ireland.
Zeiterion Performance Center, 6:00 p.m.

Film Screening: “Moby Dick” (1956) Starring Gregory Peck, Directed by John Huston.
Zeiterion Performance Center, 7:00 p.m.

Friday, November 4
Exhibit opening of “Imagining Moby!”
New Bedford Whaling Museum, 5:00 p.m.
An exhibit including original works by Leonard Baskin, Richard Ellis & Rockwell Kent demonstrating the ways artists have explored aspects of this great American novel.

Stage Performance “Moby Dick” by Gare St. Lazare Players of Ireland.
Zeiterion Performance Center, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 5
Moby! Cartoon Festival
11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Cook Memorial Theater, New Bedford Whaling Museum
A children’s film festival of animated films inspired by Moby-Dick, including an animated puppet version, a Spanish version, and others.  Free.

Stage Performance “Moby Dick” by the Gare St. Lazare Players of Ireland.
3:00 p.m. Matinee, Zeiterion Performance Center

Moby! Memorabilia Exhibitions
5:00 p.m., Cook Memorial Theater, New Bedford Whaling Museum

The Mayor of Youghal will present a slide show of pictures from the filming of Moby-Dick in Ireland in 1955.  The Whaling Museum and the Zeiterion will present an exhibit on memorabilia from the New Bedford World Premiere of “Moby Dick” on June 26, 1956. Free.

Stage Performance “Moby Dick” by Gare St. Lazare Players of Ireland.
Zeiterion Performance Center, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, November 14
Moby-Dick Marathon Reader Call-in Day
Anyone may call in to request an 8-10 minute reading slot, beginning at 12:01 a.m. Be sure to give us three alternative times when you could read. Call 508-997-0046 x151.

Friday, January 6
Moby-Dick Marathon Preview
5:30 p.m. Pre-Marathon Buffet Dinner & cash bar
7:15 p.m. Museum Theater, Free Pre-Marathon Lecture: “Moby-Dick in American Popular Culture” with Melville scholar, Dr. Timothy  W. Marr. After Nov. 15, call 508-997-0046 ext. 100 to purchase tickets for the buffet dinner. The lecture is free.

Saturday, January 7
“Stump the Scholars!”
10:00 a.m., Cook Memorial Theater
As a prelude to the Moby-Dick, Marathon, the Museum hosts a truly Melville-centric event along the same lines as National Public Radio’s popular program, “Wait, wait, don’t tell me.” You will have the opportunity to quiz Melville Society scholars on all matters Moby-Dick and Melville. No questions are too tough. Free.

Saturday, January 7
16th Annual Moby-Dick Marathon
Noon, New Bedford Whaling Museum
The Moby-Dick Marathon kicks off the non-stop reading of the great American classic. Come at any time; leave at any time. All are welcome to this 25-hour event commemorating the anniversary of 21-year old Herman Melville’s voyage from New Bedford harbor aboard the whale ship Acushnet in 1841. Free.

February 22-25
“Moby-Dick” the Opera
Whaling Museum Members’ Trip to the West Coast to see the critically acclaimed new opera by Jake Heggie, “Moby Dick,” at the San Diego Opera House. Join the Whaling Museum for three days of activities, VIP receptions, and a visit to the San Diego opera to see their premier of Moby Dick! Contact Alison Smart for more details: (508) 997-0046 ext. 115 or

For more information, contact:

Arthur Motta
Director, Marketing & Communications
New Bedford Whaling Museum
(508) 997-0046, ext. 153

Rosemary Gill
Assistant Director
Zeiterion Performing Arts Center
(508) 997-5664

Twitter hash-tag #MobyNB

New Bedford wins National Trust for Historic Preservation recognition: VOTE!

New Bedford wins prestigious National Trust for Historic Preservation recognition as one of 2011’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations.  Congrats to the Waterfront Area Historic League (WHALE) for their winning nomination.

Now cast your vote for New Bedford, voting ends on March 15th.

Since 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destination program has recognized cities and towns that offer an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes and a strong commitment to historic preservation, sustainability and revitalization. In each community, residents have joined together and taken action to protect their town’s character.

Shipwreck discovery in New Bedford’s Upper Harbor

This remarkable discovery will require future study. The report via the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers is very detailed. However, finding conclusive evidence that this vessel was destroyed during the September 5, 1778 attack by British forces on the Village of Bedford, is a long-shot, but would be truly amazing.  Historic Shipwreck | Turn to 10