Author Archives: whaleblog

Tonight, “The Azores: From Whaler’s Refuge to Sailor’s Destination” with Victor Pinheiro

Join us tonight
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Start Time: 7:30 pm

New Bedford whaleships regularly stopped in the Azores to replenish their supplies and take on additional crew members. Today, the Azores are a popular destination for sailors and tourists seeking pleasant sailing and picturesque scenery.

Victor Pinheiro, President of the Azorean Maritime Heritage Society and avid sailor, will trace the historical relationship between New Bedford and the Azores and highlight the cultural ties that still bind the two locations. He will engage the audience with tales of Azorean life and culture, sailing around the Azores and planning maritime regattas.

Fun for Children, learn how to make Sailors’ Valentines

Fun for Children!

Learn how to make Sailors’ Valentines, traditional gifts whalemen gave their wives and sweethearts upon returning from a voyage.  Take your valentine home as a keepsake.

Date: Thursday, August 5, 2010
Start Time: 10:00 am End Time: 12:00 pm

Revisiting the Content and Context of Russell and Purrington’s ‘Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World’

by Michael P. Dyer, Maritime Curator at the New Bedford Whaling Museum

This article, excerpted here,  is published in full in The Panorama in the Old World and the New, copyright in 2010 by The International Panorama Council, edited by Gabriele Koller, and first published by Buro Wilhelm – Verag Koch – Schmidt – Wiilhelm GbR.

Between 1847 and 1848, Benjamin Russell (1804-1885), an erstwhile New Bedford, Massachusetts banker turned whaleman and artist, in collaboration with Caleb Pierce Purrington (1812-1876), a Fairhaven, Massachusetts, sign painter created a whaling panorama over 1,275-foot long [i]. They entitled their work Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World and over 1848-1851 took it on a tour of the mid-west and eastern United States. (fig. 1) No direct evidence exists defining exactly what each of the artists contributed to the painting. It appears that Russell was responsible for all of the content while Purrington was probably responsible for coloring everything but that is merely guesswork. In the absence of any marine painting or drawing directly attributed to Caleb Purrington and with a preponderance of ship portraits and whaling scenes executed and signed by Benjamin Russell, it would seem logical  that Purrington was working under Russell’s direct tutelage as far as the marine scenes are concerned.

No matter who actually did what, in the New Bedford Mercury newspaper for December 12, 1848, Russell authorized the paper to emphasize

that he is very desirous that the public should understand that to Mr. Purrington’s skill and exertion full credit must be awarded for whatever of success may have or shall attend the painting now on exhibition. Mr. Russell desires no monopoly of credit and concedes to his friend more than he is willing to take to himself.

Russell’s declaration implies a stature or reputation on his own part as a marine painter that may not have been present on the part of Caleb Purrington. Russell first appears formally listed as an artist in the New Bedford Directory for 1867. His earliest dated whaling scenes, however, date from 1848.[ii] He had presumably developed a reputation as a competent artist of whale ships and whaling scenes in the late 1840s. The finished quality of his work attributed to this period suggests that his reputation was not undeserved. The Panorama would certainly have been an enormous undertaking for one artist but as yet little is known of his working relationship with Caleb Purrington.

In and of itself the panorama is interesting. Panoramas like this one were popular at the time, and their very advent is a subject of considerable study. As an art object and an historical document though, the ‘Grand Panorama’ is equally interesting and potentially even more important. It is probably the largest surviving painting in North America. While it is currently in a somewhat fragile condition due to its age and use over the years (albeit now safely and responsibly stored in the New Bedford Whaling Museum), it is quite capable of being stabilized, conserved and exhibited for popular scrutiny.[iii] It is one of the last remaining examples of the phenomenon of panoramas that swept Europe and the United States between the 1790s and the 1880s. The New Bedford Whaling Museum acquired it in 1918.

This panorama, however, is unique for two reasons. The first is that it is the only surviving large-scale panorama of the American whale fishery and the second is its importance as an historical document. It illustrates better than any other American whaling illustration key elements of the impact of the Yankee whale fishery, including its role in the expanding hegemony of the United States through the intersection and injection of American commerce into ports and landfalls the world around. Locations such as the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific came to be major centers of whaling activity and trade, and they are portrayed that way by Russell and Purrington.

Read the rest of this article in The Panorama in the Old World and the New.

To see more Russell-Purrington Panorama images, VIEW OUR FLICKR SET.

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Celebrate Herman Melville’s Birthday

Calendar of Events:

Friday, July 30,  3:00 pm:
New Bedford Symphony Orchestra Woodwind Quintet: Down to the Sea In Ships

A musical celebration of all things nautical, presented in honor of Herman Melville’s birthday. The program includes Malcolm Arnold’s Three Shanties, George Chadwick’s Three Sea Sketches, hornpipes (sailor’s dances) from Water Music by George Frederic Handel, as well as music of Scott Joplin, a hot tango by Astor Piazzolla, and a medley of George M. Cohan’s greatest hits.

Friday, July 30, 5:00 pm:
Melville Society free public lecture: Discovering Whales, Petroglyphs, and Moby-Dick on the Olympic Peninsula in June 2008, with Robert K. Wallace

This illustrated talk will highlight some of the discoveries Robert Wallace made on the Makah Indian Reservation of the Olympic Peninsula during a two-week trip with landscape painter Kevin Muente. Wallace will emphasize his encounters with gray whales, a humpback whale, and ancient Ozette petroglyphs in a sequence of events that brought Melville’s Moby-Dick to life before his very eyes. Robert K. Wallace is a founder of the Melville Society Cultural Project at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  He is author of Melville and Turner, Frank Stella’s Moby-Dick, and Douglass and Melville. He has taught Literature and the Arts at Northern Kentucky University since 1972

Saturday, July 31, 10am-2pm

You’re Invited to a whale of a party celebrating Herman Melville’s birthday! It features free activities for kids 12 years and younger on the plaza and in selected galleries. The day includes music by the Sea Chantey Chorus, art projects, historical characters, story readings, fun learning activities, kids art show, and birthday cake.

Ongoing activities:
Make whale hats, bookmarks & whale magnets
See the new 15-minute film, Around the World!
Take a new iPod tour
Story readings: pop-up kids’ Moby-Dick, and The Whale and the Snail
Kids’ Art Show
Hourly drawings to win family membership

Museum Store – Whale of a Tent Sale
Scheduled activities:
10-12pm – Make, sail & take home a toy model of the Pequod
11am – Kids’ poetry workshop
11:30am – Whaling wives, Ruth and Abby
12pm – Sperm whale activity with museum youth apprentices
1-2pm – Kids paint Moby Dick’s statue
1:30pm – Sea Chantey Chorus performance
2pm – Happy Birthday, with the Sea Chantey Chorus & birthday cake.
Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Herman Melville Family Day is hosted by the Museum’s education department in partnership with the Melville Society Cultural Project, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Discovering Whales, Petroglyphs, and Moby-Dick on the Olympic Peninsula in June 2008


(NEW BEDFORD, MA) – Robert K. Wallace will present “Discovering Whales, Petroglyphs, and Moby-Dick on the Olympic Peninsula in June 2008” on Friday, July 30 at 5:00 p.m. in the museum theater.

Free and open to the public, this illustrated talk will highlight some of the discoveries Robert Wallace made on the Makah Indian Reservation of the Olympic Peninsula during a two-week trip with landscape painter Kevin Muente.  Wallace will emphasize his encounters with gray whales, a humpback whale, and ancient Ozette petroglyphs in a sequence of events that brought Melville’s Moby-Dick to life before his very eyes.

Robert K. Wallace is a founder of the Melville Society Cultural Project at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  He is author of Melville and Turner, Frank Stella’s Moby-Dick, and Douglass and Melville. He has taught Literature and the Arts at Northern Kentucky University since 1972.

For more information, contact:

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

Beware the Dominant Narrative, Eric Schultz

On his blog,  The Occasional CEO,  Eric Schultz reports of his recent meeting with our VP for Collections and Exhibitions Greg Galer. The resulting post, “Beware the Dominant Narrative” asks us to consider if the Industrial Revolution was in fact the Industrial Evolution.

Eric writes, “Greg’s 2002  Ph.D. thesis at MIT was titled ‘Forging Ahead: The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts and Two Centuries of Industrial Enterprise 1635-1861‘. In it, he traced the trajectory of one Oliver Ames, born in 1779 and trained as a blacksmith, who took up the business of making shovels and in the process evolved from ‘artisan and craftsman to industrialist.’  In this superb work, Greg (echoing and reinforcing the writings of Philip Scranton) concluded that the Industrial Revolution was no revolution at all.  ‘It was a gradual and fluid evolution from one way of doing business to another’ led by men who maintained many of their artisan traditions and long-held beliefs about family and community.”

Eric continues to explore the dominant narrative concept as it applies in our world today. Read the full article…

Philip Hoare, award-winning author and naturalist to speak at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on July13

Award-winning British author Philip Hoare will speak at the New Bedford Whaling Museum about his lifelong obsession with whales and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, on Tuesday, July 13 at 7:00 p.m.

His new book, The Whale – In Search of the Giants of the Sea, won the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. In a richly illustrated talk, Hoare will plumb the depths of the whale’s domain to reveal it as never before, trace its cultural history from Jonah to Free Willy, and show images from his ten years experience of whales, from Cape Cod to the Azores and New Zealand.

A widely followed commentator on the politics and proceedings of the International Whaling Commission, Hoare recently noted, “We stand at a crossroads for cetaceans. We see the fragile existence of these animals as a barometer of ecological threat. As symbols of an endangered world, they evoke, and provoke, anthropomorphism on a scale equal to their size and supposed intelligence.”

Philip Hoare is the author of several books, including Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant; Noel Coward; Oscar Wilde’s Last Stand; Spike Island; and England’s Lost Eden. He lives in Southampton, England, and frequently visits Cape Cod as a member of the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies as a volunteer on its humpback whale identification program. He also written and narrated a BBC film documentary, The Hunt For Moby-Dick, which brought him to New Bedford five years ago.

The Whale has garnered praise on both sides of the Atlantic. Publishers Weekly said of the book, “With Melville as his mentor and Ishmael as his muse, the author haunts one-time whaling town New Bedford, Mass., America’s richest city in the mid–19th century thanks to whale oil and baleen… This tour de force is a sensuous biography of the great mammals that range on and under Earth’s oceans.”

For the New York Times Book Review, Nathaniel Philbrick wrote, “Genius… The Whale (is) a rhapsodic meditation on all things cetacean. Hoare is always on the lookout for the revealing detail. He also has a finely tuned sense of perspective and pacing.”

The Washington Post noted that Hoare’s work “is rigorous, something every serious student of whales — and, more widely conceived, of the natural world — will want to have at hand.” National Public Radio said, “You don’t have to love Moby-Dick to love this book. But if you do, The Whale is probably one of the most sublime reading experiences you’ll have this year.”

The lecture is free to the public. The book is available for sale in the Museum store.

For more information, contact:
Arthur Motta
Director, Marketing & Communications
(508) 997-0046, ext. 153

Grand Opening “Old Dartmouth Historical Society Wattles Family Gallery”

Treasures of Old Dartmouth

Ribbon Cutting and Public Reception
Saturday, June 26, 3:00 PM
North Water & Centre Streets

Since its founding in 1903 the Old Dartmouth Historical Society (ODHS) has collected a broad spectrum of materials to document and preserve the history of the region.  Much activity at ODHS has focused on whaling, the primary commercial activity of the region. Yet for over 100 years the New Bedford Whaling Museum/ODHS has continued to actively collect decorative and fine arts associated with New Bedford and the surrounding towns of Fairhaven, Acushnet, Dartmouth, and Westport.

This new Old Dartmouth Historical Society Wattles Family Gallery provides the perfect venue to highlight the fine art treasures from the most prosperous period of the region.  Artwork with a variety of Old Dartmouth connections are displayed.  For example, nationally known masters such as William Bradford (1823-1892) and Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917) were born in Fairhaven and New Bedford respectively.  Albert Bierstadt (1830 – 1902) moved to New Bedford as a young boy.

Old Dartmouth artists and subjects are represented in this sampling of many of the greatest works from our collection.


Bank of Commerce, North Water Street, 1895

The first permanent home of the ODHS was the National Bank of Commerce building.  Constructed in 1883-4 it was purchased in 1906 by the founders of the Society. Typical of an early American museum, a wide variety of collections were displayed from stuffed penguins brought back by whalers to ship models, paintings, and scrimshaw.

Over many years this room evolved into collection storage and staff spaces, unseen by the public.  By peeling back years of alterations we have returned this gallery to the public and featured our Old Dartmouth collections.  Special thanks go to Museum Trustee Gurdon Wattles for recommending grant funding for this project through the New York Community Trust – Wattles Family Charitable Trust Fund.

"Coast of Grand Manan", 1890, Charles Henry Gifford

To re-inaugurate this gallery it is most fitting that our finest artworks are exhibited.  Peruse the diversity and take in the richness of the cultural Treasures of Old Dartmouth.

Gregory J. Galer, Ph.D.
Exhibit Curator, VP Collections & Exhibitions

Keith W. Kauppila
Guest Assistant Exhibit Curator

Frances F. Levin
Chairman, Collections Committee

550th Anniversary of Cape Verde to feature multimedia celebration

The Cape Verdean Recognition Committee and MB Global Media will present a multimedia celebration titled, Cape Verde 550/35, saluting the 550th anniversary of the discovery of Cape Verde and its 35th  year of independence, on Wednesday, June 30, from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Part of Cape Verdean Recognition Week events, Cape Verde 550/35 will feature the Mendes Brothers, an award-winning musical group. Presented in partnership with the New Bedford Historical Society, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the evening will highlight music, video, photography, and literature of Cape Verde:

Cape Verde 550/35, A Multimedia Celebration

In conjunction with their release of a new album, the award-winning musical group Mendes Brothers have created a multimedia historical retrospective of Cape Verde. The new album, Porton de Regresso 1 (The Gate of Return 1), in commemoration of the 550th Anniversary of the discovery of the Cape Verde Islands, is part of a two-album series paying tribute to Cape Verde’s founding city, Ribera Grande de Santiago (Cidade Velha), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Porton de Regresso 1 is being presented to the public in a series of album release events around the world. Following the U.S. releases, the Mendes Brothers will travel to Cape Verde for a commemorative official album launch at Cidade Velha, Santiago.

Written, composed and produced by the brothers, Porton de Regresso 1 is a celebration of Cape Verde’s history and the victorious journey of her people.  The album chronicles the archipelago’s central role as the first permanent European settlement in Africa and the cradle of the New World – the model multicultural and multiracial society that became the Americas and the Caribbean. A tribute to Ribeira Grande de Santiago, Porton de Regresso 1 is dedicated to the people of Cape Verde and to all people of African descent living in the New World in celebration of their mutual triumph over the challenges of the last 550 years.

Panel Discussion

The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion of Cape Verde’s road to independence and how Cape Verdean-Americans contributed to the effort.  Panelists will include PAIGC and community activists Yvonne Smart and Salah Mateus among others.

Book Fair

Presented by the National Library and press of Cape Verde, hard-to-find books about the history and culture of Cape Verde will be available for sale. Works by Cape Verdean authors and others, primarily in Portuguese or Cape Verdean Creole will include a wide range of topics on Cape Verdean poets, writers, maritime history, the arts of Cape Verde, its music, theater and literature, as well as histories of individual islands, cities, villages, families and more.

Presenting Partners

The Cape Verdean Recognition Committee was originally established in 1973 by a volunteer group composed of members of the Cape Verdean-American Veterans’ Association, its Ladies Auxiliary, and interested and dedicated people from the community. The Committee’s goal is to increase awareness of Cape Verdean-American culture and history. Beginning June 27, 2010, the Committee celebrates Cape Verdean Recognition Week, which this year includes a Scholarship Awards Ceremony on July 1st and the annual Cape Verdean Recognition Parade on July 3rd.

MB Global Media: The Mendes Brothers, Ramiro and João Mendes are artists, composers and humanitarians from Cape Verde who have dedicated their entire career to innovating the music of Cape Verde and promoting unity and peace in Africa and the world.  The 1996 winners of the Boston Music Awards for Outstanding World Music Act, the Mendes Brothers are the pioneers of Cape Verde’s Bandera and Talaia Baxu music revolution. With over 150 recorded compositions and 40 plus albums to their production credit, the Mendes Brothers are one of the leading forces behind the modern arrangement and production of Cape Verdean music.

For more information contact:

Arthur Motta
Director, Marketing & Communications
(508) 997-0046, ext. 153
Ann Marie Lopes
New Bedford Historical Society
(508) 979-1750

“Connoisseurship and Identification of Paper”

Robert Hauser, Whaling Museum Conservator and a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, was one of twelve senior conservators selected to attend a two-day workshop, “Connoisseurship and Identification of Paper” at Williamstown Art Conservation Center, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

The workshop included forensic studies for dating paper, fiber analysis, watermark identification, and the forgery of works of art on paper. The instructor was Peter Bower, a paper historian and research fellow at the Tate Gallery, London, England.

WAAC Paper Services