From the Helm

Published from The Bulletin from Johnny Cake Hill  |  Summer 2014  [ Archived Letters ]

Dear Members:

As the region’s first purpose-built historical attraction, the Whaling Museum continues as the preeminent cultural ambassador for the community.  It teaches lessons about many pressing global issues, including the consequences of natural resource depletion and exhaustion, the diversification of industry, and the need for tolerance and understanding in a multicultural society.  The role the Whaling Museum plays in its second century is no less important than the role it played one hundred years ago.  In studying the history of Old Dartmouth, we can learn to understand and appreciate the complex forces that shaped the past, that echo with remarkable urgency today, and that will help inform and insure a sustainable future.

The Board of Trustees believes we have a societal obligation to help improve the lives of people in the region, and that the Whaling Museum is in a unique position to do so.  The Board believes that it can best contribute to this purpose through a reaffirmation of its investment in educational activities, exemplified by a $6.5 million investment in the Wattles Jacobs Education Center.  We recognize that our core competency is the unique combination of service, product and place.  The outcome of specialized knowledge and skills, combined with a deep and expansive collection, and a rootedness in the south coast (historically Old Dartmouth) creates an experience that delivers exceptional and differentiating value for our constituents.

How do we increase our impact over the next five years? Trustees and staff have worked diligently to write this new Strategic Plan (2014-2019).  It is a pleasure to present this for your review and consideration. 


Best wishes,

Hon. Armand Fernandes, Jr., (Ret.), Chair

James Russell, President and CEO


Whaling Museum Strategic Plan 2014 - 2019


  • Keen attention to financial management and careful stewardship of our valuable resources including personnel, collections and campus;
  • Emphasis on the Whaling Museum’s role as an educational institution, thus guiding program development & exhibit design;
  • Continued responsiveness to a community-centric approach to programs, social service and civic engagement, often in concert with local partners;
  • Encouragement of entrepreneurial thinking, linking program development to revenue streams;
  • Attraction and engagement of new audiences by creating new “points of access”;
  • Create a sense of rediscovery by framing the whaling story in a global, historical and societal context with relevance and context for audiences today;
  • Strengthen a sense of identity by reinforcing the four centuries of stories, both on land and on water, germane to the Old Dartmouth (South Coast) region.


Collections Goal

The Whaling Museum recognizes the Collection a significant and irreplaceable asset that differentiates us from peers, and consequently, we will continue to develop, care and steward the Collection to the highest possible standards.


  • Construct a Collections Development Plan
  • Provide the highest quality of care affordable for our Collections
  • Invest in conservation treatment of existing assets
  • Expand “portals” for public access of the Collection


Scholarship and Publications Goal

The Whaling Museum will facilitate and produce exceptional research, publications and scholarly activities, and develop web content to communicate to a worldwide audience.


  • Enhance the Research Library’s reputation as a world center for historical research and scholarship
  • Encourage the publication of works that leverage the Whaling Museum’s collections and expertise
  • Collaborate with universities, colleges and high schools to promote scholarship opportunities
  • Post primary source material and intellectual content online
  • Develop web-based exhibit platforms that work in conjunction with physical exhibits
  • Utilize new technologies for communication and collaboration as they evolve


Physical Plant Goal

Consolidation of the physical plant on Johnny Cake Hill will result in an organized, inviting, well-integrated and efficient visitor-centered campus.


  • Consolidate collections and non-collection assets from the Purchase Street building to the Johnny Cake Hill campus
  • Consolidate personnel on Johnny Cake Hill with the construction of a new Education Center and Research Library connecting the Sundial building and the main campus
  • Invest in the Johnny Cake Hill campus with long term capital improvements


Governance and Human Resources Goal

The Whaling Museum will continue to be a highly professional institution and will invest in all of its people including trustees, staff and volunteers


  • Build a diverse Board that reflects the priorities and values of the institution
  • Ensure that our policies and operations will be characterized as “best practices” by the Attorney General and by the American Alliance of Museums
  • Strive to diversify staff and volunteers to reflect the demographics of the South Coast communities
  • Implement measures to retain a senior management team


Collaborations and Community Goal

The Whaling Museum will collaborate with other organizations to achieve mutual educational, cultural, academic and economic development goals.


  • Provide a leadership role in international, federal and state diplomacy by actively engaging with government officials and civic leaders
  • Commit to a relationship based on mutual interest with the City of New Bedford and  its agencies
  • Strengthen existing and develop new, mutually beneficial, community partnership
  • Promote the cultural tapestry of the region


Education and Programs Goal

Through both formal and informal educational programs, the Whaling Museum will provide a meaningful experience for students, educators, scholars and enthusiasts designed to foster a community of lifelong learning.


  • Maintain a leadership role in providing structured experiences for students K-12
  • Invest in the Youth Apprenticeship Program
  • Foster life-long learning by meeting the needs of a wide variety of constituents
  • Pivot educational approach to use our unique content to develop basic skills
  • Expand reach and increase the number of learners we serve
  • Partner with schools and colleges to foster and deepen educational opportunities


Exhibitions Goal

The Whaling Museum will be recognized as a compelling destination that inspires all visitors to reflect on the complex issues that shaped the past and remain relevant today.


  • Engage visitors with comprehensive, content-rich, experiential and visually stimulating exhibits
  • Make relevant connections and references, and draw comparisons and lessons for audiences today
  • Actively work to present the stories of the Whaling Museum outside the region


Development Goal

The Whaling Museum will engage in the identification, development and stewardship of individuals, corporations, foundations and government agencies essential in advancing the goals of a vibrant and growing institution.


  • Develop new private funding for operations                      
  • Commit to building a membership base with national reach        
  • Develop a formal stewardship plan
  • Seek funds from foundations and government agencies                              
  • Complete $6.5 Million Education Center & Research Library campaign
  • Build the Endowment


Financial Stewardship Goal

The Whaling Museum will be steadfast in the management and stewardship of its financial resources and aspire to the best practices and transparency expected of a vibrant institution.


  • Fiduciary responsibilities of staff and board prioritize the operating of an efficient and  effective organization    
  • Vigilance in the oversight of the endowment such that it provides for support to the operations
  • Continue track-record of balancing budgets
  • Strive for operating efficiency with regards to the Earned Revenue functions


Visitor Experience Goal

The Whaling Museum will ensure compelling, comprehensive and enjoyable museum experiences for a multitude of audiences.


  • Shape visitor experience prior to arrival through effective communication tools
  • Increase total visitation
  • Present an organized, integrated, efficient and effective visitor-centered campus
  • Communicate a welcoming tone and present a well-cared for facility
  • Reflect the cultures and communities of the region through a growing suite of programs
  • Collaborate with regional marketing efforts to promote Bristol County
  • Measure and evaluate visitation and programs
Last Modified: June 12, 2014