New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is located in New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States, located south of Boston, southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, and about east of Fall River. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 95,072, making it the sixth-largest city in Massachusetts...

, USA. The museum, through its collections and exhibitions, tells the story of the international whaling industry and the history more generally of the "Old Dartmouth" area, the Southcoast of Massachusetts. Its collection contains over 200,000 artifacts, including 3,000 pieces of scrimshaw
Scrimshaw is the name given to handiwork created by whalers made from the byproducts of harvesting marine mammals. It is most commonly made out of the bones and teeth of sperm whales, the baleen of other whales, and the tusks of walruses...

 and 2,500 logbook
A logbook was originally a book for recording readings from the chip log, and is used to determine the distance a ship traveled within a certain amount of time...

s (handwritten accounts of whaling voyages), both of which are the largest collections in the world.

The Museum also houses an extensive collection of fine art, including works by major American artists who lived or worked in the New Beford area, such as Albert Bierstadt
Albert Bierstadt
Albert Bierstadt was a German-American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. In obtaining the subject matter for these works, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion...

, William Bradford
William Bradford (painter)
William Bradford was an American romanticist painter, photographer and explorer, originally from Fairhaven, Massachusetts, near New Bedford....

, and Albert Pinkham Ryder
Albert Pinkham Ryder
Albert Pinkham Ryder was an American painter best known for his poetic and moody allegorical works and seascapes, as well as his eccentric personality...

, as well as significant collections of locally produced art, glass, furniture, and other decorative arts that flourished as a result of the wealth that whaling brought to New Bedford in the 19th century.

The Lagoda
The Lagoda is a half-scale model of the whaling ship of the same name, located at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.-Original ship:The original Lagoda was a merchant ship built in 1826...

, the world's largest whale ship model, is housed in the museum.


On 7 January 1903, Ellis L. Howland, a news reporter for the Evening Standard, presented a paper urging the establishment of a historical society and a museum:

I believe that the need of a historical society arose not recently but generations ago when the history of New Bedford and vicinity commenced. Today we are suffering from the omission and if it is in the least deplorable it will be doubly a breach of our duty toward posterity to allow the lack to exist any longer...True, there are a few old log books stored away in the public library or here and there in the closet of some private collector, but when one contemplates the tons and tons of them that have been ground up into wrapping paper of prosaic fiber wash tubs, the absence of a historical society becomes in our minds almost a crime.

On 22 July 1903, the 100 founding constituents of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society selected William W. Crapo
William W. Crapo
William Wallace Crapo was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts. He was elected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of James Buffinton. He served slightly more than three terms in congress from November 2, 1875 to March 3, 1883Born in Dartmouth,...

, a local lawyer and congressman, as their President. At first, the museum rented rooms to display and store artifacts from the Masonic Building on the corner of Pleasant and Union street. However, by 1904 their membership had grown to almost 700 people and collections had been expanded to include some 560 artifacts.

In 1906, Henry H. Huttleson Rogers donated the Bank of Commerce Building on Water Street to the ODHS for the purpose of establishing a museum. Just a year later, the New Bedford Whaling Museum was opened.

The teens and twenties were exciting decades for the New Bedford Whaling Museum. In 1914, the ODHS appointed Frank Wood
Frank Wood
Frank Wood is the name of:*Frank Wood , Iowa State Senator from the 42nd District*Frank Porter Wood , Canadian art collector*Frank Wood , American actor...

 as the curator and first full time staff member. A year later Emily Bourne donated the Bourne Building in memory of her father, Jonathan Bourne Jr. The Bourne Building now houses the Lagoda
The Lagoda is a half-scale model of the whaling ship of the same name, located at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.-Original ship:The original Lagoda was a merchant ship built in 1826...

, a half-sized model of Bourne's whaling ship. In 1922, the famous whaling movie Down to the Sea in Ships
Down to the Sea in Ships
Down to the Sea in Ships is a 1922 American silent film about a 19th century Massachusetts whaling family. Directed by Elmer Clifton, the film stars William Walcott, Marguerite Courtot, and Clara Bow.-Plot:...

 was filmed in New Bedford with young actress Clara Bow
Clara Bow
Clara Gordon Bow was an American actress who rose to stardom in the silent film era of the 1920s. It was her appearance as a spunky shopgirl in the film It that brought her global fame and the nickname "The It Girl." Bow came to personify the roaring twenties and is described as its leading sex...

 and many New Bedford locals dressed up in their grandparents' clothing to fit the scene.
By the 1930s, the New Bedford Whaling Museum was attracting four to ten thousand visitors a year, most of whom were from out of town. The Museum further expanded at the bequest of the Wood Building by Annie Seabury Wood in 1935. But, perhaps the most important addition of the decade was the acquisition of a juvenile humpback whale skeleton, suspended in the Lagoda room. In the words of Curator William Tripp:

"We are no longer a whaling museum without a whale, as some in the past have chosen to call us."

New Bedford experienced a bit of the limelight in 1953 when the whaling-inspired film All the Brothers Were Valiant
All the Brothers Were Valiant
All the Brothers Were Valiant is a 1953 adventure drama film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer , based on the 1919 novel All the Brothers Were Valiant by Ben Ames Williams...

premiered in the city.

The "save-the-whale" movement of the 1970s led John R. Bockstoce, the Curator of Ethnology, to research and compile the most complete data on the Bowhead whale
Bowhead Whale
The bowhead whale is a baleen whale of the right whale family Balaenidae in suborder Mysticeti. A stocky dark-colored whale without a dorsal fin, it can grow to in length. This thick-bodied species can weigh to , second only to the blue whale, although the bowhead's maximum length is less than...

 to date, reestablishing the importance of the preservation of historical whaling documents.

In 1996, the NBWM played a large role in establishing a New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park, a national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

 which includes several New Bedford historical sites including the Seamen's Bethel
Seamen's Bethel
The Seamen's Bethel is a chapel in New Bedford, Massachusetts, United States, located at 15 Johnny Cake Hill.-History of building:Built by the New Bedford Port Society, it was completed on May 2, 1832...

, located across the street from the Whaling Museum. The museum features a twenty-minute short film called The City that Lit the World courtesy of the National Park service. 1996 was also the year of the first annual Moby Dick Marathon Reading.

In 1998, the NBWM collaborated with the Azorean Maritime Heritage Society and built the Azorean Whaleman Gallery, an exhibition devoted to the contributions of Azorean sailors and whaleboat builders to U.S. whaling history. In August 2000, the Jacobs Family Gallery was built thanks to the donation of Irwin and Joan Jacobs. A new blue whale skeleton, named Kobo
Kobo whale
Kobo is the skeleton of a juvenile Blue whale which was accidentally struck and killed by a tanker and was brought ashore in Rhode Island in March 1998. KOBO is the centerpiece of the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s entrance gallery...

 was suspended from the ceiling.

In 2001, the Kendall Whaling Museum merged with the New Bedford Whaling Museum, an acquisition of some 70,000 artifacts, effectively doubling the size of collections. To accommodate all these artifacts, the NBWM bought the Purchase Street Whaling Research Library.

In 2002, the New Bedford Whaling Museum partnered with the Melville Society, and now houses their extensive Melville collection in the Whaling Research Library.

On 22 September 2008, James P. Russell assumed the position of President of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

External links

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