Category Archives: Volunteers

Arts vital to local economy


The arts are an essential facet of our daily lives and form a vital component of the local economy.

Recent state and federal grant awards to the whaling museum are a case in point. A recent front-page article in this paper (Oct. 31) announced the Massachusetts delegation’s success in securing $1.5 million in federal funding for the Bourne Building, again engaging local construction services and creating jobs.

The grant was actively supported by Sens. Paul Kirk and John Kerry, Congressman Barney Frank and Mayor Scott Lang. It will be administered through the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park — highlighting the great positive value of having this national park in the downtown.

The museum has directed a state-awarded, $617,000, donor-matched grant to hire a local construction company for a major renovation of the historic Bourne Building. State Sen. Mark Montigny and state Reps. Antonio Cabral, John Quinn, Stephen Canessa and Robert Koczera have actively supported this program through the state Cultural Facilities Fund.

A $147,000 grant from the Federal Institute for Museum and Library Services will allow the museum to hire two additional employees to catalog the recently acquired collection of Merchants Bank records.

For several years, the U.S. Department of Education has provided significant funding through Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations (ECHO), ensuring high-impact educational programming for thousands of local schoolchildren at the whaling museum and New Bedford Oceanarium. And across Bristol County, $347,000 in Massachusetts Cultural Council grants will support 57 schools and cultural organizations, including the whaling museum.

Projects in the cultural sector might not be as visible as highway construction, but each investment by the state or federal government helps build the creative economy and creates jobs here in our community.

None of these investments would have happened without the support of our elected officials.

Government initiatives like these illustrate just how important arts organizations are to the local economy. Investment in the arts and cultural sector pays enormous dividends: It attracts visitors to our community, strengthens our local economy, and enhances the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of local residents.

Residents and businesses in our community value the arts enough to invest countless volunteer hours and millions of dollars in personal donations or sponsorships. In the last 15 years, annual contributions to arts organizations in Bristol County have increased from $4.5 million to an astonishing $19 million. As a consequence, the number of arts organizations in the county has grown by nearly 50 percent.

These nonprofits run on volunteerism, further leveraging their financial investment. For example, volunteer efforts at the whaling museum translate to $336,000 in savings annually.

This, combined with federal, state and local government funding, is where the economic impact starts to be significant. The message we send to our elected officials is that by combining smart government investment with individual philanthropy, we accelerate new economic activity.

And New Bedford has a strategic advantage: Our cultural organizations work collaboratively — with each other, and with local government — finding common ground to mutually support diverse programs and activities for the community.

Government investment in the arts is smart, it is efficient, it creates jobs, and it keeps the fabric of our communities bound together during the worst recession since 1929.

(submitted to

Volunteers Wanted for New Bedford Crewlist Project

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has organized a project to digitize the names of men who sailed from New Bedford on whaling vessels from the second half of the 19th century to the end of American whaling in 1924.


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


In cooperation with the New Bedford Free Public Library and the New Bedford Port Society, the Museum will complete the project begun several years ago by the New Bedford Free Public Library to make crew list information available.  When completed, this will provide a fully searchable database of names of whalemen who left the port of New Bedford, men who hailed from all the corners of the world.   This resource will be useful to persons seeking family history, to museum staff for exhibit purposes, and to scholars interested in understanding the diversity of the participants in the whaling industry.  The list created will be housed on the Museum’s website, and could, in the future, be linked to biographical information, immigration records, and other information about crew members generated by our ECHO partner organizations.

Participants in this project need to have a computer and be familiar with an excel database.  The work can be done at home.  Copies of crew list information printed from microfilms of the Port Society Seamen’s Registers can be mailed to you, and completed databases can be sent back electronically.  If you are able to assist with this project email Crewlist Project for more information.  We need a few good volunteers!

Ship Caulkers and Their Tools, by Sanford Moss

Volunteers at the New Bedford Whaling Museum perform myriad tasks in all of the departments of the institution.  One such individual, Sanford “Sandy” Moss, works in the Curatorial Department identifying and researching tools and related artifacts in our collection.  The article below is a piece he has penned on a simple looking tool box and its contents.  Through his specialized expertise and some additional research, he has been able to relate a good bit about the work and life of the unknown person who owned this tool kit.  This is but one example of how volunteers “bring history to life” through a labor of love.

The picture below shows a box of tools that belonged to an un-named ship caulker who doubtlessly worked in a crew of ship caulkers on the New Bedford waterfront, sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century.  As with most tool boxes, we can tell something of the man who owned this set of tools, and what he did for a living.

In the days of sail and Yankee whaling, ship caulkers were important shipyard workers, finishing the process of making new hulls and decks tight and leak-free; and restoring older hulls to the same the same degree of fitness prior to every extended whaling voyage.  Their job was one that required skill, but a fairly simple arsenal of tools.  These included two or three types of caulking mallets, a group of caulking “chisels” or “irons” that were really tampers, and a small array of hooks or narrow scrapers to clean the seams between the hull or deck planks prior to caulking.  The actual caulking material could be comprised of cotton yarn or string, and most importantly, oakum, which was usually the yarn from which manila or hemp cordage was made and tarred with pitch.


2001.100.3143: Leather seat with wood sides and bottom. Contains one caulking mallet, five caulking irons, one seam raker made from a race knife, one instrument (seam raker), and one spare mallet handle.

Continue reading