Category Archives: Volunteers

Museum awarded $123,000 grant for its education programs

The Museum was awarded a $123,000 grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, a national foundation based in Jacksonville, Florida, which will allow the museum to sustain both its educational programs for school children and its innovative apprenticeship and internship programs.

In making the announcement, museum president James Russell applauded the Jessie Ball duPont Fund for investing in education in New Bedford and for strengthening the museum’s capacity to provide high quality public programs. Sustaining these programs is a top priority for the Museum’s Board of Trustees and Docent Volunteer Corps. He noted that the Museum’s educational mandate can continue without interruption in 2012.

Additionally Mr. Russell noted how gratifying it is that the work of the museum’s educators is getting recognized at a national level. It is a testament to the quality of their programs.

James Lopes, vice president of education and programming, said, “ The duPont grant will allow us to continue our educational mission and to expand access to our programs through the website, utilizing the museum’s vast collections. We restored Paul Cuffe to the forefront of regional history and we foster community-wide reading through popular public programs like the Moby-Dick Marathon with duPont’s help.”

The award provides substantial support to the museum’s youth apprenticeship program, a skills-development and professional work experience program for qualifying high school students in New Bedford that includes paid stipends to students totaling more than $44,000 per year.

Dr. Mary Louise Francis, Superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools, called the museum “an important strategic partner in education and particularly for my school district, noting that it provides “a unique immersive educational experience unparalleled in the region.”

In 2011, the Museum welcomed 3,431 New Bedford students K-12 free of charge from 36 schools and student organizations for standards-based programs in science and history. All New Bedford students will receive free admission to the museum under the grant.

The Museum’s 85 active docents and volunteer corps contributed 23,321 hours – valued at more than $350,000 – to educational programming, student and public tours, community events, exhibitions, research and operations. They welcomed more than 90,000 visitors to the museum last year.

According to the New England Foundation for the Arts CultureCount Database, the museum generates an $8 million impact in cultural economic development for New Bedford. It regularly hosts community meetings and forums on a wide range of public issues and welcomes dignitaries and elected officials, showcasing the city’s illustrious maritime past to business leaders and economic development prospects.

A mark of excellence

The American Association of Museums (AAM), Washington, D.C., announced the New Bedford Whaling Museum has earned reaccreditation at the most recent meeting of the Accreditation Commission. Accredited status from AAM is the highest national recognition achievable by an American museum.

In its announcement, AAM stated that reaccreditation is awarded only after a comprehensive yearlong examination and peer review of all aspects of the Whaling Museum’s mission, operations and programming. “Accreditation is emblematic of many things, the highest standards in museum operations, outstanding public programs, and long-term sustainability among them,” said Ford W. Bell, AAM president. “Accreditation is clearly a significant achievement. But put simply, it means the citizens of the communities served by these museums have in their midst one of America’s finest museums.”

In her letter to museum president, James Russell, Dr. Bonnie W. Styles, Chair of the AAM Accreditation Commission, wrote “We found the museum to be a highly performing organization that has a solid strategic plan, excellent community engagement and is dealing strategically and realistically with budget hardships. We particularly liked the three-tier intern apprenticeship program. The museum is also a good example of merging history and science together in exhibits and programming.”

Mr. Russell noted the importance of reaccreditation. “We are extremely proud of this achievement. It validates years of hard work on the part of our dedicated trustees, volunteers and staff – evaluated against the strictest professional and national standards. This honor elevates all of New Bedford and the South Coast region, and it reenergizes us in the continued building of a greater, stronger Whaling Museum,” he said.

AAM Accreditation recognizes the highest standards in individual museums and ensures that museums continue to uphold their public trust. Developed and sustained by museum professionals for 40 years, the AAM museum accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation and public accountability.

James Lopes named Vice President, Education and Programming of the New Bedford Whaling Museum

Jim Lopes

James Lopes has been named Vice President, Education and Programming of the New Bedford Whaling Museum. In making the announcement today, James Russell, museum president said, “the trustees and staff are extremely excited that Jim will come on board. Jim has a deep passion for local history and culture that promises to bring the Museum more closely in touch with the diverse communities in the city. Moreover, his legal background as an entertainment lawyer is perfectly suited to leading a capable education team and volunteer corps. Jim will lead the institution to the next level with engaging and meaningful programs.”

Jim Lopes, a fourth generation New Bedford native, graduated with honors from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He is a practicing attorney and specializes in entertainment law, and has held executive positions at MCA-Universal Pictures, CBS-FOX Video, and Reader’s Digest. He was in private practice in New York City, where he was also a professor at the Audrey Cohen School for Human Services and Education, Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY). Currently, he is also an adjunct professor in Entertainment Law at UMass School of Law at Dartmouth, a trustee of Mass Humanities and a member of the Advisory Council of Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Mr. Lopes has compiled an extensive genealogical database linking over 28,000 family members on six continents and numerous others who worked in the whaling, textiles and cranberry industries.

“I am looking forward to this challenging position. It is a first-rate opportunity to enrich and extend the Whaling Museum’s offerings to its growing constituency. I think one of the primary missions of the Museum should be to connect the story of whaling to the people. There is no better way to tell local history, international whaling history or the story of Old Dartmouth, than to tell the stories of the families who were involved. Those families come from everywhere and have moved on to everywhere,” Mr. Lopes said.

Mr. Lopes is an award-winning film producer of the documentary Race to Execution which focused on the issues of race and the death penalty and was broadcast nationally on PBS. Early in his career Mr. Lopes authored The Black Heritage Trail, the guide to Boston’s historic African-American community. He also contributed to the Official Boston Bicentennial Guidebook published in 1976.

Part of the senior management team, Lopes will head the education department with an annual budget of $1 million, which oversees several key activities of the museum, including public programming, apprenticeship and internship training, and the volunteer and docent corps.

Crewlist Project Update

In this post we share an update by Crewlist Project Director, and New Bedford Whaling Museum Advisory Curator Judith Lund.

Thanks to about 37 volunteers ranging in age from Museum interns and the students in the Maritime History Class at UMass Dartmouth to retired folks, the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Crew List project is nearly complete.  So far, the names of crewmembers for almost 2200 voyages from 1855 to the end of American Whaling in 1927 have been entered into the database.  If you estimate 25 crew members at least for each voyage, that’s about 55,000 little lines in excel .  THANK YOU EVERYONE.

This is the sort of project the museum couldn’t have done without volunteer help.  Our information will be combined with the early years input by New Bedford Free Public Library some years ago, to provide the names of men who left New Bedford on Whaleships sailing form this port

The Museum is about to redesign its website.  This information, will be included in that design, available via the internet to whaling historians and to people trying to understand their own family history.   We will have this database up and running by Fall of.

Volunteer Opportunities at the New Bedford Whaling Museum

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is currently recruiting volunteers. Are you retired and would like to become more involved in the New Bedford community? Perhaps you are a college graduate looking for experience in a museum setting. Or maybe you would like the opportunity to converse with people from around the world. Whatever your interests, the New Bedford Whaling Museum may be the right place for you!

Selected volunteers are invited to participate in a 10 week training course at the Museum, held Wednesday mornings throughout the fall beginning in early September. Prospective volunteers are asked to fill out an application available at (dates of course to be determined). Volunteers are not required to have previous knowledge about whales, the whaling industry or the history of New Bedford. During the course they will receive material covering all pertinent information.

Address all questions and comments to:

Brian Witkowski
Education Programs Assistant
18 Johnny Cake Hill
New Bedford, MA 02740
Tel (508) 997-0046 ext 185
Fax (508) 717-6883

Louisa M. of Rochester, docent for 2 years: “One of the most rewarding experiences I have had since retiring from teaching has been volunteering for the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Being new to the area, this opportunity has given me a wonderful perspective on the South Coast and the rich history of this part of the state. The volunteer work is not just rewarding but is also a learning experience. Each time I am in, I learn something new or interesting from the other docents/volunteers, staff, and the wonderful visitors to our museum. I have also made some great new friends. I would highly recommend volunteering for the museum.”

All Hands On! Family Program

Monday, August 16
10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Come visit the Whaling Museum for the last All Hands On program of the summer! Docents will be available to answer questions, read stories (upon request) and encourage children to touch, smell, and see the various objects related to whales and whaling that our sea chests hold!

Regular admission required

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

Inspiration through Moby-Dick Marathon

The Moby-Dick Marathon inspires action to support the Friends of the Hull Public Library.

Calliope Pina Parker is a sixth-grader who reads as many as 10 books a week and favors Harry Potter.  She is an avid user of libraries, borrowing from across the region. When budget cuts in Hull not only sheared the local library’s funding and hours, but also cost the town its state certification last month, Calliope took matters into her own hands.

Since January Calliope had been thinking about organizing a reading marathon. That was when her dad, Mark Parker, brought the family to see a friend participate in the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s annual reading of “Moby-Dick’’ – not yet one of Calliope’s favorites. But she appreciated the experience and thought about arranging her own reading marathon, which she did.  A March 6th readathon and bake sale was held, with wizardly cupcakes and “magic wand’’ frosted pretzel rods, raising awareness about the library’s circumstances and collecting money for the nonprofit Friends of the Hull Public Library.

Read the full story as posted by Eric Moskowitz at

“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.

Crewlist Project Update

In this post we share an update by Crewlist Project Director, and New Bedford Whaling Museum Advisory Curator Judith Lund. It speaks to our current team of 17 volunteers, but also to potential volunteers. To find out more about the project visit our initial post from November 6th.  To ask questions or sign-up use

I am pleased to report that we are making good progress on this project. So far I have the results of three completed years and parts of another that have been coming to me as they are completed. That total of entries is 369. It may seem small yet, but I know that many of you are waiting to complete the year assigned to you before sending it to me. That’s fine, too. The important thing is that so many have volunteered and are going full steam, or full sail, ahead.

Captain Antone T. Edwards and some of his crew aboard the Wanderer

In March the history majors taking Maritime History at UMass Dartmouth will join in, thanks to Len Travers, who teaches the course and read the blog about the project. It will be a chance for his students to get their hands on some real history, and in doing so, complete a project that will be of lasting value. I have tentatively assigned three years to them.

Our youngest participant is Tevin Honohan, a student at New Bedford High School, who plugs away at the information during his community service period in his schedule.

The Whaling Museum and I thank you for all you are doing.