Category Archives: Exhibition

Panorama Conservation Project Reveals Hidden Content.

One of the great treasures of the New Bedford Whaling Museum collection, Caleb P. Purrington and Benjamin Russell’s 1848 painting, Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World, is currently receiving conservation treatment. Concerns with the 1,285 foot long painting include flaking paint, wrinkling and tears in the fabric. The entire composition consisting of tempera on cotton sheeting, even after being bundled around from city to city 150 years ago, remains in a remarkable state of preservation. It  is nonetheless in need of attention. The painting is stored on rolls, as it was originally, and abrasion has caused some paint loss. For its treatment, the painting has been separated into a series of padded spools. One at a time, the spools are mounted on a custom-fabricated steel table outfitted with cogs, cranks, swivels and other apparatus necessary to maneuver the giant paintings safely and effectively. Its location in the Bourne Building, just adjacent to the model whaling bark Lagoda, gives visitors the opportunity to witness the ongoing treatment firsthand. One goal of the treatment is to minimize the loss of paint as it flakes away from the cotton sheeting. Using a combination of liquid spray consolidates and targeted forensic triage the conservators are systematically stabilizing this important artifact of American maritime history. Another goal is to repair any damage to the fabric.

Conservator Jordan Berson at work with a dahlia sprayer humidifying the cotton substrate and fixing the pigments in place.

Conservator Jordan Berson at work with a dahlia sprayer humidifying the cotton substrate and fixing the pigments in place.

One ten foot section of the Panorama is treated weekly to consolidate the fragile and powdered paint layer, in order to prevent it from falling off the cotton substrate. First, the section is examined for minute particles on the surface that are carefully  removed with tweezers. Particulate commonly found are lint, human hairs, dirt and other debris. Once the surface is free of such materials, the section is sprayed with a superfine mist of weak-gelatin solution from a dahlia-sprayer. The solution (.75% conservation grade gelatin in deionized water) serves a dual purpose: as an fixative for the powdering paint, and to humidify the cotton sheeting substrate and reduce wrinkling. 

The Panorama unrolled to the section showing Horta, Fayal in the Azores. Photo by Melanie Correia, July 15, 2015

The Panorama unrolled to the section showing Horta, Fayal in the Azores.
Photo by Melanie Correia, July 15, 2015

While the conservators examine and treat the painting for its forensic issues, the curators and historians seize the opportunity, while the painting is flat on its bed, to examine the great whaling document for the details of its content; and this painting is replete with fascinating historical details. Everything from flags to geography, to the rigs of ships and boats, is documented in varying degrees of detail and accuracy. Benjamin Russell (1804-1885) was a self-trained artist and himself a whaleman. He is a fascinating figure in New Bedford history. As a young man his prospects were great. His family were successful merchants and he sat on the board of directors of the newly formed Marine Bank. The national banking crisis precipitated by the Andrew Jackson administration, however, caused a constriction of credit and Russell’s assets were insufficient to cover his debts. So, like many in desperate straits, he sought his future at sea and went a’whaling. He sailed on at least one whaling voyage onboard the ship Kutusoff of New Bedford, a sperm and right whaling cruise to the Indian Ocean and the Northwest Coast of North America, 1841-1845. While on the voyage he is said to have kept a sketchbook to record the exciting events and scenes of the hunt intending to use the experience to further his career as a whaling artist. By the 1860s he had firmly established himself in New Bedford and was working as a ship portraitist and print maker, but after he had returned from his whaling voyage he and local sign painter Caleb Purrington (1812-1876) undertook this traveling panorama picture show to take whaling to a broader American audience.

Senior Maritime Historian, Michael P. Dyer take a break from writing his notes about the details of Purrington and Russell’s shipping shown in the harbor at Horta, Fayal to discuss the project with visitors.

Senior Maritime Historian, Michael P. Dyer takes a break from writing his notes about the details of Purrington and Russell’s shipping in the harbor at Horta, Fayal to discuss the project with visitors.

For anyone interested in whaling history and especially for those conversant with the  limited quantity of published American artistic production documenting the whale fishery of the 19th century, any picture offering details of the period of the 1840s is naturally of great interest. The panorama, however, was never meant to be studied as a fine work of art. It was meant to be viewed by a mass audience from a certain distance; hence the artists emphasized broad details for maximum impact and painted the rest with just enough definition to be seen and understood by the audience but not to be examined in detail. Several good examples demonstrate their working style in the creation of this painting where scenes are included but are later painted out entirely or changed significantly.

For instance, as the voyage leaves the Azores, actual whaling begins as sperm whales are seen, boats are lowered and the chase is on.

This section of the painting showing ships and boats engaged in sperm whaling was extensively reworked and many of the changes are visible through close examination.

This section of the painting showing ships and boats engaged in sperm whaling was extensively reworked and many of the changes are visible through close examination. These include the house flag at the top of main mast (the tall one in the middle), the set of the sails, and a large-scale sperm whaling scene, barely visible and easily overlooked.

However, the artists, probably Russell himself, were not content with the scene as it was originally drawn. The sails of the ship, which is shown hove-to with its main topsails and topgallant sails aback, indicate that the wind is blowing from one direction. The American ensign and the house flag at the main also show that wind direction. The original house flag flying from the top of the main mast was originally painted flying the wrong direction and was later painted out completely. Not only was it flying the wrong direction, but the entire design of the flag was changed. It appears that originally, the house flag could have been that of T. & A.R. Nye, it being a blue swallowtail with white lettering, but it was changed to a completely non-descript and unidentifiable design.

This detail photograph of the house flag from the above view clearly shows that both the direction and the design of the house flag were completely changed. The faint outline of a blue swallowtail flag with white lettering is visible to the right, while the newly painted flag to the left is unidentifiable.

This detail photograph of the house flag from the above view clearly shows that both the direction and the design of the house flag were completely changed. The faint outline of a blue swallowtail flag with white lettering is visible to the right, while the newly painted flag to the left is unidentifiable.

Likewise, the artists changed the foresail which, originally shown as being set, is shown clewed up. This presumably reflects Russell’s practical experience as a sailor and a whaleman, where “having determined from the known quality of the ship, what sail would be best to heave-to under,” Russell made the changes that he thought necessary.

Note the faint outline that shows the foresail had originally been painted as being set. In the final view it is clewed up.

Note the faint outline that shows the foresail had originally been painted as being set. In the final view it is clewed up.

The artists made other changes in this scene as well. Whether the pictures did not effectively mirror the accompanying narrative or vice versa, that the painting was not following the narrative, the artists eliminated and changed two sperm whaling scenes. It may well be that the painting and the narrative were in a state of creative evolution together and that the artists were making it up as they went along in order to produce a better product in the end. In the below scene, as it was originally painted, a whaleboat is shown on the flank of a very large sperm whale which has been lanced and as shown by its bloody spout, is dying. This could have been the point in the narrative where Russell describes the whaleman’s language “his chimney’s a’fire,” to indicate a whale that has received its death wound.

Whether the artists simply were not ready to talk about the killing and processing of a sperm whale at this stage in their narrative is speculation, but for some reason they chose to paint out this sperm whaling scene.

Whether the artists simply were not ready to talk about the killing and processing of a sperm whale at this stage in their narrative is speculation, but for some reason they chose to paint out this sperm whaling scene.

A few scenes on, they did it again, painting out an entire sperm whaling scene and leaving another in its place. Note the faint view of the men in a whaleboat in the below scene along with the flukes of a sounding whale just above them.

A few scenes on, they did it again, painting out an entire sperm whaling scene leaving another in its place. Note the faint view of the men in a whaleboat in the above scene along with the flukes of a sounding whale just above them.

Note the faint view of the men in a whaleboat in the above scene along with the even more faint outline of the flukes of a sounding whale just above them.

Above is a detail of the sperm whaling scene that they left in place. It shows a whaleboat going “head and head” onto a sperm whale, meaning that the boat is approaching the whale from the front as opposed to the flank. Such details as this helped the narrator to tell the story well and to demonstrate some of the techniques that American whaleman had mastered over the 100 years of their sperm whaling experience.

Above is a detail of the sperm whaling scene that they left in place. It shows a whaleboat going “head and head” onto a sperm whale, meaning that the boat is approaching the whale from the front as opposed to the flank. Such details as this helped the narrator to tell the story well and to demonstrate some of the techniques that American whaleman had mastered over the 100 years of their sperm whaling experience.

As the process of conservation on the Panorama goes forward, doubtless many more new observations will come to the fore regarding the process of its creation. Such observations will fill gaps in the sparse historical record of the Panorama and make for an exciting new narrative about it and its place in American whaling history.

Sources:

William Brady, The Kedge-Anchor; or, Young Sailors’ Assistant (New York, 1850), p.173, entry #308.

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The Mystery of the New Bedford Gas & Edison Light Company Models

D. Jordan Berson, collections manager, with the partially assembled New Bedford Gas & Edison Light Company models. Photo: Arthur Motta.

D. Jordan Berson, collections manager, with the partially assembled New Bedford Gas & Edison Light Company models. Photo: Arthur Motta.

As the community debate continues about whether a casino should (or should not) be built on New Bedford’s waterfront, the old New Bedford Gas & Edison Light Company (NBG&ELC) buildings  stand at the heart of the latest proposed reuse of the site. Also known as the Cannon Street Power Station, the last redevelopment effort, launched in 1997, desired to transform it into a “world-class” aquarium. Turbine Hall, the 1917 monumental structure at the center of the site, once again figures prominently as an architectural centerpiece in the early conceptual drawings of a proposed casino complex.

The proposed New Bedford Aquarium, model, ca. 1998 (Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc.)

The proposed New Bedford Aquarium, model, ca. 1998 (Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc.)

I will not elaborate on the remarkable history and importance of the company, the building or its many additions constructed over the decades in order to deliver power to the region. It has been well documented by research historian Peggi Medeiros, for its nomination in 2002 as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places (an effort led by the Waterfront Historic Area League and its former executive director, Tony Sousa). Peggi also recently reviewed the site’s history in the Standard-Times in light of the casino proposed by KG Urban Enterprises.

Instead, my focus is to ask the public’s help in solving a mystery regarding a very unusual group of large wooden models of the old NBG&ELC complex, rediscovered recently in the Whaling Museum’s collections.

Now, you may be wondering: How does the Whaling Museum not know about these objects? The answer is: We do know a little about them, but not the maker or makers, when and where they were made and for what purpose. With more than 750,000 objects in the Museum’s collections, the curatorial staff continues its unending quest to preserve and interpret it all, and on rare occasion, is presented with mysteries such as this one, which any latter-day Sherlock Holmes would relish solving.

Some of the original exhibit labels remain attached to models. Photo: Arthur Motta

Some of the original exhibit labels remain attached to models. Photo: Arthur Motta

What we do know is that it was part of an exhibit by NBG&ELC at the New Bedford Armory for the City of New Bedford’s Centennial celebrations of 1947, and thus, it may be the only extant display of the New Bedford Centennial Industrial Exposition, which touted the city’s major business concerns. The model includes several hand-lettered labels explaining the functions of the buildings.

Portion of the Centennial feature in the Standard-Times, July 4, 1947.  Photo: Arthur Motta

Portion of the Centennial feature in the Standard-Times, July 4, 1947. Photo: Arthur Motta

Under the headline “Thousands Visit Centennial Industrial Exhibit at Armory,” a two-page feature article in the New Bedford Standard-Times remarked only briefly how “Miniature old and new plants, gas tanks and a model freighter were combined to make the novel display of the New Bedford Gas and Edison Light Company” (July 4, 1947). Despite its many photos, the feature article did not include one of the exhibit.  So it may be that the models were fabricated expressly for the exposition, however, this has not been confirmed with research to-date.

The models came to light relatively recently, when reallocation of all storage space was necessitated in advance of construction of the new Wattles Jacobs Education Center. Stored deep in the recesses of Johnny Cake Hill’s labyrinth of storage rooms, the models’ presence predate the living memory of the longest-serving staff member, Barry Jesse, who recalls it being in the attic in 1971. Even Eversource spokesperson, Michael Durand and Dana P. Howland, a former director of the company – both men with the longest institutional memories of the utility around – didn’t know of the models’ existence.

D. Jordan Bernson, collections manager, with the NBG&ELC models. The large metal tank model weighs approx. 50 lbs. (photo: Arthur Motta)

D. Jordan Berson, collections manager, with some the NBG&ELC models. The large metal tank model weighs approx. 50 lbs. (photo: Arthur Motta)

Recently, collections manager D. Jordan Berson and me committed to laying out the sprawling 24 models to see what we could see. It required more floor space than we had anticipated. Constructed of fir plywood, metal and wire, the models are of an undetermined scale, perhaps a quarter inch to a foot. The largest, Turbine Hall, is about 6 feet in length. Several of the models will require careful repair if the entirety is ever to be exhibited again. Indeed, Dr. Christina Connett and her curatorial staff debated the models’ inclusion in the recently opened exhibition, Energy and Enterprise; Industry and the City of New Bedford. However, without its full history, the models were deferred for perhaps a future project and the “Energy” narrative of the current show was related through other objects and images from the collection.

New Bedford Gas & Edison Light Company complex, 1897.

New Bedford Gas & Edison Light Company, 1897.

Using among several references an aerial photograph of the NBG&ELC complex reproduced in the Centennial “Official Souvenir Book” of 1947, we managed an approximate assembly of the plant, sans the missing freighter model aforementioned in the newspaper account. Mr. Berson indulged my request that he be photographed with the models in order to relate scale, although upon inspection of the photos his presence in them recalls for me some distant Christmas morning scene with a Lionel train set!

New Bedford Gas & Edison Light Company,  New Bedford Standard-Times, 1924.

New Bedford Gas & Edison Light Company, New Bedford Standard-Times, 1924.

The insides of the models are hollow; no internal details were meant to show. Only the exteriors are treated; all ofwhich are painstakingly hand-painted to include dozens of mullioned windows, entablatures, smokestacks, chimneys and vents.  It should be noted here that actual interior of NBG&ELC’s Turbine Hall is amazing, designed by the renowned engineering firm Webster & Stone – designers of the MIT dome in the same year – Turbine Hall’s interior looks like something out of a Jules Verne novel, with its colossal steel girders, massive bolts and riveted crossbeams. Only one of  four soaring smokestacks still stands at the site. The aquarium designers of 18 years ago took full advantage of these imposing elements, and it is hoped, any new project will, too.

Turbine Hall, ca. 1997 (photo: Cambridge Seven Associates)

Turbine Hall, ca. 1997 (photo: Cambridge Seven Associates)

So please contact me about what you may know of the origin of the NBG&ELC models. My email address is: amotta@whalingmuseum.org.

Perhaps a late, great uncle built it upon retirement. Or a great grandfather worked in a carpentry shop that was hired by the company to build a miniature of the power plant at a scale sufficiently large enough to create an impressive display in the Armory’s sweeping Drill Hall.

Many of the smaller models in the group have metal eyelets screwed in along their bases, it is assumed, in order to fasten each building to a very large base-board, probably painted to delineate the plant’s grounds and also to hold them in position. Unfortunately, the base is missing. To add to the puzzle, some of the models look like structures from an earlier era in the company’s history, as can be inferred from an 1897 illustration of the complex. Could it be that the models as originally exhibited were intended to show the company throughout its history?

Turbine Hall, ca. 1997 (photo: Cambridge Seven Associates)

Turbine Hall, ca. 1997 (photo: Cambridge Seven Associates)

Also, without the base we could not surmise the location of the mysterious so-called Lake Trinidad, noted in historical accounts of the site. As the Standard-Times reported “In 1924, a looming coal strike inspired the installation of an oil-gas generator. This inspiration had drawbacks – the oil-gas generator suffered from a bad case of by-products. The set yielded tremendous quantities of tar and lampblack. The tar was finally run off into a large puddle where it grew to be 3 feet deep and won the name of “Lake Trinidad!”” (Oct. 29, 1950) This was a mocking reference to one of the world’s largest natural asphalt lakes.

Turbine Hall, ca. 1997 (photo: Cambridge Seven Associates)

Turbine Hall, ca. 1997 (photo: Cambridge Seven Associates)

In closing, we need to learn more about the models and hope someone may know something about their creation. They represent a considerable slice of history for an always-strategic site on New Bedford’s central working waterfront – first, as a simple landing place for the native Wampanoag and then the earliest European explorers; then settlers; then colonial burying ground; then wharves and piers; then iron foundry; then illuminating gas manufactory, then electric lighting company; then New Bedford Gas & Edison Light Company; then a wholly-owned subsidiary of New England Gas & Electric Association; then CommElectric; then NSTAR; then a proposed aquarium; now Eversource; and perhaps, a future casino.

Former New Bedford Cannon Street Power Station, 2015 (photo: Arthur Motta)

Former New Bedford Cannon Street Power Station, 2015 (photo: Arthur Motta)

SOURCES:

Ellis, Leonard Bolles. History of New Bedford and its vicinity, 1602-1892, Syracuse, N.Y: D. Mason & Co., 1892.

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/article/20150328/NEWS/150329366

KG Urban Enterprises

New Bedford Free Public Library (newspaper microfiche collections)

New Bedford Semi-Centennial and Industrial Exposition Official Souvenir, Providence, R.I.: Journal of Commerce Company, publishers. 1897.

Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc.

Boston Tea Party ship model unveiled

In time for the 240th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, the New Bedford Whaling Museum is set to unveil a model of Dartmouth, first ship to be built in New Bedford in 1767, and which sailed into American history as one of the three vessels boarded and its cargo of British tea dumped into Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773.

Dartmouth, built in 1767 for the Rotch family, holds the distinction of being the first ship-rigged vessel constructed in then-named Bedford Village of Old Dartmouth, now New Bedford. Joseph Rotch arrived in the new settlement in 1765 from Nantucket, determined to establish a whaling industry on the mainland. He built Dartmouth to transport whale oil to England, then the principle market for his product. Carrying oil to England, the ship would return with British products for the colonies. It was with a cargo of tea that the ship returned to Boston in November 1773. The Sons of Liberty, determined not to pay the tax on tea imposed by the British, dumped the tea from Dartmouth along with that of the brig Beaver and ship Eleanor into Boston Harbor. This act of defiance, dubbed the Boston Tea Party, emboldened colonists to rebel against British rule. Dartmouth was lost in 1774 returning from her next voyage to London.

Despite its local origin and national fame, Dartmouth was not represented among the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s renowned collection of more than 175 ship models, due in part to limited historical data about the original vessel’s design and dimensions. To remedy the omission, the museum commissioned a model to be built by Richard Glanville, a professional marine model artist working in Maine. R. Michael Wall, proprietor of the American Marine Model Gallery, of Gloucester, Massachusetts, advised and coordinated the work, which first required considerable specific research to be conducted before construction of the 1/4″ = 1′ (1:48) Class-A scale model could begin, and which took Glanville over seven months to complete. Continue reading

‘Following Fish’ exhibit opens Sept. 27

Marie Louise Gomes makes scallop bags at Diamond Marine Supply, one of the many diverse jobs vital to seafood processing in the commercial fishing industry. (Photo by Phil Mello)

Marie Louise Gomes makes scallop bags at Diamond Marine Supply, one of the many diverse jobs vital to seafood processing in the commercial fishing industry. (Photo by Phil Mello)

An innovative exhibit titled Following Fish – Navigate Through the New Bedford Fishery opens Friday, September 27, 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Following Fish debuts on the eve of the port’s tenth annual Working Waterfront Festival and precedes a gala concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater to benefit the festival’s programming. Concert tickets are available at the door for $10. The public is cordially invited to the exhibit opening; RSVP is required in advance by calling (508) 997-0046, ext. 100.

Installed in the San Francisco Room, Andrew Wilde Gallery and the Davis Observation Deck overlooking the harbor, Following Fish brings the past and present together in a poignant and dramatic way, notes María Quintero, Curatorial Fellow and the exhibit’s lead curator. “It is easy to look out across the many draggers and scallopers and imagine a similarly sized fleet 150 years ago, except with wooden hulls, masts and spars. Following Fish draws a direct line from whaling then to fishing now,” she said.

Whaling was a dangerous profession and it is no different for the com­mercial fisherman today. Fishing remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the country, yet the men and women of New Bedford continue to go down to the sea for fish. As a result of their great efforts and with the assistance of processing plant workers on shore, New Bedford has been the nation’s highest grossing fishing port for 13 consecutive years.

Through an innovative design approach, Following Fish will be expanded upon over the course of the next few years. With the input of an advisory panel led by highly respected leaders in the field such as Drs. Brian Rothschild and Kevin Stokesbury, the museum’s curators will open up the exhibit development process to the public. Visitors can participate in interactive elements and share their opinions online as they navigate the fascinating, complex and arduous voyage to bring seafood from the ocean to the dinner table.

 In addition to being an engaging visual ex­perience, the exhibit aims to test new educational approaches for younger audiences while addressing many of the larger complex and vexing questions that envelope the industry today.

Featured are new acquisitions by contemporary artists includ­ing paintings by Dora Atwater Millikin, a 40” long model of the dragger Nobska by Westport model maker Bruce Gifford and the outdoor installation of ceramic fish by Nancy Train Smith. Extraordinary wood carvings by Leander Plummer (1857-1914) are juxtaposed with contemporary photography by Phil Mello and accompanied by oral histories with fishermen provided by Laura Orleans and the Working Waterfront Festival Committee.

Following Fish is sponsored by the William M. Wood Foundation. Tweet the exhibit with hashtag #FollowingFish_NBWM

One fine artifact from the cultures of the Western Arctic

Found this cool thing in the collection the other day, it was boxed with American colonial and Eastern Woodlands artifacts but one glance and I had my doubts.

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It appears to be a nephrite stone mallet bound with rawhide onto a handle of reindeer or caribou leg bone. It was a thrill to find it because it is in perfect condition, but a little bit disappointing in the end because it can’t go into our new exhibition on the colonial history of the Old Dartmouth region. It didn’t really look like your average Algonquin artifact. It turned out to be either a North Slope Inuit or a Chukchi [Siberia] people’s tool called a kautaq used when crushing bones to extract the marrow, called puiniq. Such tools are generally large and heavy, but this one is somewhat smaller and could also have been used to pound fish fillets into flakes. This was women’s work and arduous but a woman who knew how to do it properly was much esteemed in the family. The bone marrow is extremely nutritious and if prepared properly keeps for quite a long time. Good winter food apparently. A good description of the tool can be found on the Echospace website http://www.echospace.org/articles/363/print.html:

“The kautaq or hammer used to crush the bones was made of an oblong stone mounted on a short slightly curved handle. Some families prided themselves on having a jadestone hammerhead, but any rock plucked from a stream bed that was of the right size, shape and weight could serve just as well. Elders cautioned that the hammer’s striking face should have a flat, rough textured surface. This helped prevent the hammer from slipping off the bone as the crushing blows were struck. The handle of the hammer could be made from a number of materials. Some people used dall sheep horn, others a curved section of caribou antler, while others still preferred spruce or alderwood. The handle was usually less than six inches long and slightly curved to fit comfortably in a person’s hand. The head and handle were joined by a caribou or sealskin thong that was passed through a hole drilled near the top end of the handle, and wrapped around the stone head several times. A tight secure fit was assured by doing the lashing with a wet, water soaked thong, which shrank and tightened as it dried. Later, small wooden wedges could be added to shim up the fit, if they were needed.”

It’s a wonderful object inducing marvel in its elegant simplicity. It’s probably late 19th or early 20th century but in essence it could have been made any time in the last 5000 years.

‘Arctic Visions’ exhibit opens April 26

Michael A. Lapides, curator of 'Arctic Visions' adjusts a 19th century model of a Umiak (skin boat) with a photomural of the Sermitsialik Glacier in the background, taken during Bradford's 1869 voyage to Greenland. (photo: NBWM)

Michael A. Lapides, curator of ‘Arctic Visions’ adjusts a 19th century model of a Umiak (skin boat) with a photomural of the Sermitsialik Glacier in the background, taken during Bradford’s 1869 voyage to Greenland. (photo: NBWM)

A major new exhibit titled Arctic Visions – Away then Floats the Ice-Island opens to the public with an evening of free activities for the entire family, including ice sculpting, performance art, Magic Lantern show, and a gala reception on Friday, April 26 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Using the rich Arctic and ethnographic collections of the museum and through partnerships with other institutions and individuals, Arctic Visions explores the intersections between art, science and exploration through the work of Fairhaven artist William Bradford (1823-1892). Highlights of the exhibit include an unparalleled collection of Bradford’s Arctic paintings and photographs taken during his 1869 expedition to Greenland, which he later incorporated into a massive leather-bound elephant folio, entitled The Arctic Regions – Illustrated with Photographs Taken on an Art Expedition. The exhibit’s title, Away then Floats the Ice-Island is drawn from the text of this core artifact in the exhibit, which was published in London in 1873 and principally sponsored by Queen Victoria.  The extremely rare volume is being republished by David R. Godine, Inc. in association with the New Bedford Whaling Museum and released in conjunction with the exhibit opening in the Wattles Family Gallery. A book signing will take place in the Jacobs Family Gallery.

Several activities throughout the museum are scheduled as part of the opening, including ice sculpting throughout the day on the museum plaza by Thomas Brown; performance art by Drew Denny and Friends on the Lagoda at 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.; Arctic Visions Opening Ceremonies in the Jacobs Family Gallery at 6:30 p.m.; American Magic Lantern Theater show in the Cook Memorial Theater at 7:15 p.m.; and Artists-in-Residence, Zaria Forman and Lisa Lebofsky at work in the Jacobs Family Gallery.

Admission to the museum is free from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., R.S.V.P. by calling (508) 997-0046 ext. 100.

Opening concurrently in the museum’s Centre Street Gallery, is an exhibit titled, Following the Panther – The Arctic Photographs of Rena Bass Forman. The exhibit features the work of artist and photographer, Rena Bass Forman (1954-2011), who traveled extensively in search of transformational landscapes and light; it includes a selection of prints taken from her 2006 trip to Greenland, during which she retraced a segment of Bradford’s 1869 voyage aboard the ship, Panther.

Zaria Forman, Rena’s daughter, along with Lisa Lebofsky, will participate in the museum’s Artists-in-Residence Program for one month beginning with the exhibit opening. They will be creating art inspired in part by Bradford’s voyage and the public is invited to meet and speak with the artists while they are at work in the gallery.

Bradford’s 1873 book, now republished and reformatted as a 200-page hardcover will be available for $49.95 (plus tax) at the opening. It may also be reserved by calling the Museum Store: (508) 997-0046 ext. 127.

Taken together, the exhibit and the book reveal human impact on and understanding of the environment. Michael A. Lapides, Director of Digital Initiatives and curator of Arctic Visions noted, “Bradford’s work includes the use of photography, to serve his painting, and his magnificent book “Arctic Regions,” republished for the first time, serve as a poignant prelude to the rapidly changing Arctic landscape.” April 30th marks the 190th anniversary of Bradford’s birth.

Arctic Visions, related programming and the republication of Bradford’s book is generously underwritten by Bruce A. and Karen E. Wilburn, in honor of New Bedford Whaling Museum Director Emeritus, Richard C. Kugler. A recognized authority on the artist, Kugler’s 25-year tenure included building the museum’s expansive Bradford collection.

Also opening simultaneously at the New Bedford Art Museum City Gallery, a related exhibit titled The Frigid Zone: William Bradford’s Arctic Studies, includes works by Bradford from the collection of the New Bedford Free Public Library.

The Art of the Ship Model, Feb. 28

R. Michael Wall and Judy Lund co-curate The Art of the Ship Model.

R. Michael Wall and Judy Lund co-curate The Art of the Ship Model.

The Art of the Ship Model, a comprehensive new exhibit opens with a members’ reception and lecture on Thursday, February 28 at 6:00 p.m. at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The exhibit opens to the public on March 1.

Organized by R. Michael Wall, proprietor of the American Marine Model Gallery in Gloucester, Mass., and Judith Lund, former curator of the museum, the exhibit features a wide range of models selected to depict ensembles of New Bedford area yachting, American whaleboats, vintage half hulls, ethnological northwest (Arctic) small craft, and whaling vessels from the age of sail to modern catcher boats. Examples include early 19th century models selected from the collections of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, the Kendall Whaling Museum and some acquired on loan. Many of the models have not been seen in years.

A recognized authority, Wall has spent 35 years researching, assessing and brokering ship models. He brings a discerning eye to the exhibit, assembling a selection of works that demonstrate the artistry of the builders. At 7:00 p.m. he will give an illustrated talk titled The Art of the Ship Model: Collections of the Past, Present and Future in the Cook Memorial Theater, the opening lecture of the 2013 Sailors’ Series. The lecture and reception are free for members and $20 for non-members. Museum memberships are available at the door.

Sponsored by the Kenneth T. & Mildred S. Gammons Foundation, the exhibit will enable a ret­rospective evaluation of ship models: what they represent, their purpose, a chronological review of their naval architectural design, as well as the ethnology or cultural relationships they reveal.

Just as five marine painters can independently approach the subject of capturing a particular vessel’s characteristics via the craft of drawing and creative application of paint, so too could five different marine model artists provide their mod­els with equivalent craft and unique artistry. Works by notable professional modelers such as Erik Ronnberg, Jr., Michael Costagliola, Roger Ham­bidge and many others will exemplify this creative aspect.

The show will guide the visitor through ways to look at ship models from this artistic per­spective, as well as how to identify their merits in relationship to recognized standards of “museum quality” craftsmanship. Such standards are based upon a consensus of construction specifications developed by the Smithsonian Institution, The Mariners’ Museum, and Mystic Seaport Museum as published in 1980. This publication, titled “Ship Model Classification Guidelines,” provides both the model artist and the collector with ways to analyze such pieces. Additionally, the exhibit will dis­cuss how some of the models were made, their research or lack thereof, their often creative pre­sentation, all of which will convey a new sense of connoisseurship to the viewer.

Maya textiles exhibit and local weaving demo, March 2

Maya_WeaverWeaving Stories, Weaving Lives: Maya Textiles from Guatemala and New Bedford will be on exhibit from February 18 through April 7 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in partnership with the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University.

Maya weaving tells stories. It is rooted in tradition, and alive today. The exhibit features historic garments from Guatemala, and garments being made today in New Bedford by Maya weavers using their traditional back-strap loom. Join in this celebration of a new chapter in New Bedford’s long tradition of textile manufacturing. Now through April admission to the Whaling Museum is free to those who live in New Bedford, made possible by a grant from BayCoast Bank.

On Saturday March 2nd at 2:00 p.m. see local Maya weavers use the back-strap loom to create beautiful textiles of personal expression. During school vacation week (February 19-22), bring your family to enjoy Maya textile related crafts and other activities offered at no cost from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Tweet the exhibit at #weavinglives.

Maya textiles from the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology (Brown University) and the weaving collective Oxib’B’atz (New Bedford) celebrate the artistry of Maya weaving, a storytelling practice rooted in tradition that remains an essential form of expression to this day. Anthropologist Margot Blum Schevill recently donated her extensive textile collection, gathered during the 1970s, to the Haffenreffer Museum. Locally, Oxib’B’atz continues weaving using the traditional back-strap loom.

Co-curated by Anna Ghublikian and María D. Quintero, the exhibit looks at historic and contemporary garments, which reflect a new understanding about the role of textile manufacturing in the history of New Bedford and those who have made it their home.

Exhibición de textiles maya presenta una tradicion artistica con una demostración del tejido el 2 de marzo

Tejiendo historias, Tejiendo Vidas: Textiles Maya de Guatemala y New Bedford estará expuesto de 18 de febrero hasta el 7 de abril en el New Bedford Whaling Museum en asociación con el Museo Haffenreffer de Antropología en Brown University.

El tejido Maya comparte historias. Está arraigado en tradición, y continua vivo hoy. Vea vestuarios históricos de Guatemala, y textiles hechos hoy en New Bedford por tejedores Maya que mantienen sus prácticas culturales. Venga a celebrar este nuevo capítulo en la tradición larga de la fabricación de textil en New Bedford. Desde hoy hasta el fin de Abril el New Bedford Whaling Museum es gratis para los que viven en New Bedford, hecho posible por un subsidio de BayCoast Bank.

El sábado 2 de marzo a las 2:00 de la tarde vengan a ver tejedores locales maya tejer en la foma tradicional para crear hermosos textiles de expresión personal. Durante la semana de vacaiones escolares (Febrero19-22), traiga a su familia para disfrutar de actividades relacionados a los tejidos maya de las 10:00 de la mañana a 12:00 de la tarde in costo alguno.

Los tejidos maya del Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology (Brown University) y tejidos del collectivo Oxib’B’atz (New Bedford) celebrarán la creatividad artistica del tejido maya, una práctica narrativa arraigada en tradición que persiste como una forma esencial de expresión hasta este día. Recientemente, antropóloga Margot Blum Schevill donó los tejidos que colecto extensivamante desde los 1970s a el Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. Localmente, Oxib’B’atz continua la práctica cultural del tejido maya,

Ésta exhibición, desarrollada por Anna Ghublikian y María D. Quintero, presenta vestuarios históricos y contemporáneos para reflejar una nueva comprensión de la fabricación de textil en la historia de New Bedford y la gente que lo habita.

Mundialmente, el New Bedford Whaling Museum es el mayor de los museos completamente dedicados a la historia global de ballenas, la pesca de ballenas y la historia cultural de la región. Como la piedra angular del New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, el Museo se encuentra en 18 Johnny Cake Hill en el corazón del centro histórico de la ciudad. Para un calendario completo de acontecimientos, visite el sito de web del museo: http://www.whalingmuseum.org.

El New Bedford Whaling Museum estará abierto de martes a sábados de 9am a 4pm y los domingos de 11am a 4pm.

Ambassador of Portugal visits Feb. 16

DabneyCoverFace2The Ambassador of Portugal, Nuno Brito, is scheduled to speak at a presentation celebrating the American publication of a major anthology on the diplomatic history between Portugal and the United States, on Saturday, February 16 at 2:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater, New Bedford Whaling Museum. The public is invited to attend.

Titled, The Dabneys: A Bostonian Family in the Azores 1806-1871, the anthology deals with the historic American Consulate of the Dabney family at Horta, Faial – Açores. For most of the 19th century, the family made the island of Faial their home. Merchants with elite social connections, three generations of Dabneys were United States Consuls. Their impact on the growth of trade and their humanitarian activities earned them admiration throughout Portugal and America.

Ambassador Brito will be joined by local elected officials and community leaders at the event, which is sponsored by the New Bedford Whaling Museum and UMASS Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture.

Originally compiled by Roxana Lewis Dabney (1827-1913) from decades of letters and journals and privately printed for the family in 1899 as The Dabney Annals, the new 250-page American edition is illustrated with dozens of photographs from the era.

The February 16 program will include historian Maria Filomena Mónica, editor of the unabridged Portuguese edition of The Dabney Annals, which was published in 2009; she is also editor of the American edition, with annotation and selections by Paulo Silveira e Sousa.

“For the American reader, this book sheds new light on a re­markable but little known chapter in the history of United States foreign relations,” said James Russell, museum president and CEO.

A partnership of the Luso-American Development Foundation and the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the book is available for purchase following the program or online at: www.whalingmuseumstore.org.

Sailors’ Series launches Feb. 28

Photo: Courtesy of PUMA Ocean Racing

Photo: Courtesy of PUMA Ocean Racing

R. Michael Wall is the first of several distinguished speakers featured in the 23rd Annual Sailors’ Series lectures. His illustrated talk, The Art of Ship Models: Collections of the Past, Present and Future, takes place on Thursday, February 28 at 7:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater, New Bedford Whaling Museum.

An international authority on ship models, Mr. Wall will explore the Whaling Museum’s extraordinary collection of models with a view toward understanding these works as a true decorative art form. A graduate of Georgetown University School of Business, Mr. Wall prepared the definitive report, “Ship Model Classification Guidelines” in conjunction with the staffs of Mystic Seaport, the Smithsonian Institution, and The Mariners’ Museum. He is owner of the American Marine Model Gallery, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

A new exhibit, titled The Art of Ship Models which he co-curates with Judith Lund, premieres at 6:00 p.m. for members in the Rinehart Gallery, located on the main level of the museum. The exhibit opens to the public on March 1.

On March 7, the program will feature Dyer Jones, CEO of the Herreshoff Marine Museum. A boat builder by trade, he has been involved in sailing his whole life, and in the America’s Cup competition since 1967; as a team member, race official, syndicate member, event administrator, and dispute arbitrator. Mr. Jones has also served as Commodore of the Ida Lewis and New York Yacht Clubs, is president of the International Twelve Metre Class, a member of the Classes Committee of the International Sailing Federation, and with Luigi Lang, co-authored “The Twelve Metre Class,” the definitive history of the class since 1907. He currently chairs the Selection Committee for the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.

On Thursday, April 4, a lecture titled Ray Hunt and His Designs will be presented by John Deknatel and Winn Willard, of C. Raymond Hunt Associates.

Founded as a partnership in 1961 between C. Raymond Hunt (1908-1970) – the internationally renowned helmsman and yacht designer – and John Deknatel, current president, C. Raymond Hunt Associates remains one of the most widely recognized and respected names in naval architecture, in particular for designs utilizing the hull form known as the Hunt deep-V. A Harvard College graduate, Mr. Deknatel studied at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 1963, he went to work for Ray Hunt, and assumed leadership of the firm in 1969.

Winn Willard is director of Hunt Yachts and vice president of Hunt Associates. A graduate of Babson College, he studied naval architecture at the University of Michigan, and is a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.

On Thursday, April 18, a lecture titled The Charles W. Morgan and Our Yankee Whaleboat Project will be presented by Quentin Snediker, Mystic Seaport Shipyard Director and Bill Womack, owner of Beetle, Inc.

Their illustrated program will give the inside story of Mystic Seaport’s massive restoration of the whaleship Charles W. Morgan, and plans for her epic sail to New Bedford on July 4th, 2014. Bill Womack will discuss the construction of the Yankee whaleboat funded by Whaling Museum supporters, which will swing from the davits of the Morgan for the next 170 years! Donors to the whaleboat project receive free admission to this lecture.

On Thursday, May 2, a lecture titled Volvo Ocean Race will be presented by Ken Read. Considered one of the world’s most accomplished sailors, Mr. Read has twice helmed Ameri­ca’s Cup programs in 2000 and 2003 and was twice named “United States Rolex Yachtsman of the Year.” He has 46 World, North American, and National Champion­ships to his credit. Most recently, he skippered the PUMA Ocean racing team in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012. He will share his perspective on racing and the dedication, challenge and sacrifice required along the way.

All Sailors’ Series lectures occur on Thursday evenings, starting at 7:00 p.m. with a pre-lecture reception at 6:00 p.m. in the Jacobs Family Gallery. Tweet the Sailors’ Series with hashtag #SailorsSeries23

Admission for individual lectures: Members: $15 / Non-Members: $20. For the 5-lecture series: Members: $60 / Non-Members $85.

The Sailors’ Series is sponsored in part by C.E. Beckman, the Beverly Yacht Club and the New Bedford Yacht Club.

Schedule at a glance

February 28: The Art of Ship Models with R. Michael Wall.

March 7: An Evening with Dyer Jones.

April 4: Ray Hunt and His Designs with John Deknatel and Winn Willard.

 April 18: The Charles W. Morgan and Our Yankee Whaleboat Project with Quentin Snediker and Bill Womack.

 May 2: Volvo Ocean Race with Ken Read.