Tag Archives: history

Interning at the Research Library

UMASS Amherst Emily Esten has just completed her internship in the Research Library. Below are her reflections on the experience:

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has always been a fascinating place inside – you’ve got the Lagoda, the forecastle, and the whale skeletons hanging over you. The exhibits detail answers to every question about whales and whaling that could ever be asked. But there is so much research and materials that the Museum can’t possibly display and discuss them all – for those stories, you have to visit the library.

I interned in the Research Library over the summer, looking for an experience that would allow me to further my interests in New Bedford whaling as well as teach me some new skills, like library management. I enjoyed my experience, and I certainly learned a lot in just a few months.

  • Organization: My tasks primarily focused on organizing Manuscript (Mss) collections. These collections can have all sorts of items – correspondence was common, but there could also be business records, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, pictures, or various mementos. Many of these collections had been accessioned by the Museum (purchased or donated) but not processed (organized with a complete finding aid). This is where I came in – to process the collections. First, I would take a thorough inventory of what was initially in the boxes, taking notes on the content I came across. Next, I’d review my notes and attempt to think of a series arrangement in which to sort the content – whether that was by type of content, time period, or individual associated with the materials. Once running my organizational ideas by Mark, I’d typically start arranging the materials and folders in chronological order. When all the folders were organized, I’d have to officially process them, writing descriptions on each folder. Finally, I’d write the finding aid, have it checked by Mark, and code it for the website. It wasn’t always easy to do, especially as the collections became larger and less organized. It required attention to detail, focus, and great organizational skills – all of which I was able to perfect.
  • New Bedford (Whaling): Working with unprocessed manuscripts was like a crash course in Old Dartmouth history, jumping from century to subject in a matter of pages. And unlike most history courses, which provide overviews of a topic or period, I was able to use primary sources of a particular individual or family to begin to understand what life might have been like. In regards to the whaling industry, the Mss collections covered more than just the experience at sea. I read about whalers writing home to their wives and children explaining day-to-day activities on board; I analyzed records of businessmen managing their vessels and crew; I saw the cards and drawings from children and wives detailing their lives as they waited for fathers and husbands to return. These primary sources served as guides to the stories of whaling I already knew. Through the Delano Family Papers (Mss 134), I saw the beginnings of whaling as various young businessmen traded ships amongst themselves. I saw a wife in the Eliza Russell Papers (Mss 136) writing to her husband on voyage in the North Pacific. I saw as the Matthew Howland family triumphed in the business and then failed disastrously in the Arctic disasters of the 1870s in Mss 135.
  • New Bedford (Outside of Whaling): I also got to view New Bedford as a city of its own – sometimes in its heyday, sometimes long after. Within the Akin Family Papers (Mss 140), I saw the success of industrial businesses, such as the Howland Mills or F.T. Akin & Company, come into power. And from a social perspective, I was able to some of the work of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society through the papers of Charles Gardner Akin, Jr., as well as the sales and exhibitions of Winfred W. Bennett and his Old Colonial Antiques Shop (Mss 138). I even read things entirely different from whaling, like Walter Teller’s research of Joshua Slocum (Mss 131) and Walter Rounsevell’s quest for gold in California (Mss 126). In general, though, I learned a lot about the people that made New Bedford and the surrounding community important.
  • The Library: Other than New Bedford history, I discovered what it takes to work in a library. It’s nowhere near as impersonal as people make it out be – with all the activity, every day was a different experience. While I’d often be in my own little corner working on the project of the week, I’d see all sorts of people looking at all sorts of materials and for all sorts of reasons. Unlike the way people portray or talk about libraries, it’s not this still or stationary place. A library is a haven and a home, ever-growing and shaped by the needs of the researchers. A librarian or an archivist has to be able to think about information differently – not necessarily on linear terms, but in a form that allows you to link ideas and people together. You have to know where to find things off the top of your head, and how to help people find exactly what they are looking for. It’s not an easy job, but it certainly seems like an interesting one.

I’d like to thank the New Bedford Whaling Museum for the opportunity to work in the Research Library, especially Mark Procknik as my supervisor, and Michael Dyer and Michael Lapides for support.

Whaling Museum named one of Massachusetts’ Great Places

In March, many members & friends nominated the Whaling Museum for inclusion on the Official List of 1,000 Great Places in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Their advocacy paid off. Today, the Governor’s Commission to Designate 1,000 Great Places of Massachusetts released its list, and the Whaling Museum is included! The Commission received some 12,000 nominations. Great Places will be used to promote tourism and cultural development by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism and other state and locate agencies. Thanks to all who voted!

Press Release

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

Books and Libraries in the Digital Age

“Books and Libraries in the Digital Age” , hosted by the MIT Communications Forum on Oct 16, 2008.

A  fascinating  discussion about the relationship between emerging technologies, primary source research, and libraries. (Run time, 1:54 minutes, takes a while to get to the meat of the topic). Posted online via MIT World™, a free and open site that provides on demand video of significant public events at MIT.

“Perhaps because he is a historian rather than librarian by training, Robert Darnton regards the vast ocean of digital information that civilization has begun accumulating with relish rather than anxiety. Darnton delves into European archives to find raw material, boxes of cast-off “ephemera,” for his stories of how people lived hundreds of years ago. No wonder he believes “it’s important to preserve as much as you can because you don’t know what will turn out to be significant.”

In conversation with David Thorburn and audience members, Darnton lays out why he finds more promise than peril in rapidly expanding digital collections.”

Dyer, Mayo Kick off Museum Lecture Series

The Man and Whales: Changing Views Through Time lecture series returns for its second season, starting on Wednesday, February 17, 2010, at 7:30 pm, with a reception at 6:30 pm in the Jacobs Family Gallery.  Join us in the New Bedford Whaling Museum theater for this series that blends science and history as our speakers examine historical and current aspects of a variety of whale-related topics.

All Tied Up

In the days of Yankee whaling, staying connected to the whale you harpooned was critical if you were going to turn that animal into the products that made money for the ship owners and crew.  A vital part of the capture operation was the rope that ran from harpoon to whale boat.  That rope linked you to the whale, and ultimately to the success of your hunt.

In recent decades, the opposite is true.  Maximum effort is made to disconnect any lines that are found attached to whales.  Disentanglement teams, sinking ropes, cooperation among a variety of resource users and new legislation comprise the current, ongoing efforts to keep the ropes away from the whales.

Michael Dyer, Maritime Curator, New Bedford Whaling Museum has devoted a great deal of his research efforts to thoroughly understanding the process of the boat-based whale hunt.  Mike’s presentation will guide you through the process of getting fast to, staying with, and bringing to ship’s starboard staging, the whales targeted by our ships.

Charles ‘Stormy’ Mayo, Senior Scientist, Director of the Right Whale Habitat Studies program at Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies has over two decades of experience in the risky but often rewarding field of whale disentanglement.  He will share several experiences of the vital work that he and the staff at PCCS, in conjunction with a variety of federal and state agencies and university programs, lead along the East Coast to free whales from the lines that restrict movement and endanger survival.

Man and Whales will continue on March 31, April 14 and May 19, each night at 7:30 pm in the New Bedford Whaling Museum theater.  Admission is free for all presentations.  Man and Whales: Changing Views Through Time is sponsored through ECHO (Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations) a program administered by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement.

New Year’s Resolutions

Submitted to the Standard -Times by our incoming Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, Arthur P. Motta, Jr. Posted to Southcoasttoday.com on Dec 31st

New Year’s resolutions are a perennial topic this time of year. For most of us, following through on them is a perennial challenge. So it was for New Bedford’s first historian, Daniel Ricketson (1813-1898). A man of letters, Ricketson, hosted some of the great literary minds of the 19th century at his country estate, Brooklawn. These friends included Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and A. Bronson Alcott.

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Ricketson’s History of New Bedford. But of all his writings, the work he kept close at hand was a little booklet he apparently never published. Its 16 pages of well-worn blue paper were handwritten, which he bound with needle and thread. Ricketson titled it “Rules of Conduct, Hints,” Written in 1863, it is preserved among the 100,000 manuscripts at the Whaling Museum’s Research Library.

On the cover Ricketson also printed, “In hoc signo vinces I.H.S.”, the motto on the imperial standard of the Emperor Constantine, meaning “In this sign you will conquer,” and one of the earliest monograms of Christianity, I.H.S. In the pages that followed, Ricketson set down his “Rules: Imprimus” for personal goodness in 16 resolutions:

1. To invoke on rising, The Spirit of Truth as my guide, and support through the day.

2. To take whatever is set before me at table with thankfulness.

3. To guard my lips from all harshness, and to speak in a low, and gentle tone of voice, however earnest I may be.

4. To cultivate patience towards all and to remember in my efforts to reform, that the welfare of the evildoer is to be considered, as well as that of the sufferer, if possible.

5. In my religious communications, to keep close to the Spirit of Truth, and avoid extravagant expressions.

6. I fear that I am a poor listener, and I would thrive henceforth to be less eager to communicate knowledge then to receive.

7. In my ordinary intercourse with mankind, I must strive to be more silent, and reserve my communication for public occasions when I can address a larger number and spare myself and others the fatigue of a too excited conversation.

8. To endeavour more and more to live in the Spirit of Purity and Love and to keep my mind in as close a communication with our Heavenly Father as possible.

9. To govern my thoughts as well as my words and deeds.

10. To beware of over estimation of myself, and remember as a caution, that from self-examination for more than ten years past, I have been convinced that my sphere in life is a small one – that neither nature nor education has fitted me to occupy any very high position, nor does my calmer and better judgment lead me to choose other than a humbler walk in life.

11. Above all else, I desire to be a good man, for which end I must still strive, though now so far from the great description of success herein.

12. To forbear judgment upon the words and works of others until I have well established grounds for decision.

13. To cultivate a mild and genial demeanor towards all and to learn to listen more patiently.

14. To avoid all heated arguments, and particularly too earnest talks in the evening, which I always find productive of unpleasant excitement to my brain and consequent poor sleep and lassitude the next day.

15. To endeavour also, when I have honestly, though perhaps too fiercely spoken my convictions, to leave it in the hands of the Lord, and give myself no further concerns herein.

16. To avoid criticisms on others as much as possible, and to endeavour to make every possible allowance for the infirmities of human nature.

Over the years, Ricketson reviewed these resolutions and noted on the final page his desire to have done better to follow them:

Alas, how little have I improved these good intentions. Aug. 27th 1869. D. R.

– Even to the present time. May 25th 1871

– And until now. Dec. 9th 1883

Ricketson’s famous friend, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”