New Bedford Whaling Museum Breaks Ground on new $6.5 million dollar Wattles Jacobs Education Center

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — With more than 280 guests in attendance including dignitaries, trustees, donors, volunteers, staff and students, the New Bedford Whaling Museum celebrated the official ground breaking of the new Wattles Jacobs Education Center yesterday afternoon. The $6.5 million dollar Center is the most ambitious project at the Whaling Museum since the construction of the historic Bourne Building in 1916.

The new Wattles Jacobs Education Center is named in honor of the building’s top funders. The Wattles and Jacobs families each donated leadership gifts to the project. In total, just over $6 million dollars has been donated to the building campaign with almost all of the funding coming from the private sector. 

“Through the new Center, the Museum is positioning itself to make major advances in its ability to preserve, transmit and disseminate, through education, much of the knowledge in its library and in its collection,” said Gurdon B. Wattles, trustee, New Bedford Whaling Museum. “We are most appreciative to the many supporters who have joined in this effort. Kathy and I are honored to be a part of it.”

“Joan and I strongly support the Whaling Museum’s new Education Center, a key addition which will enhance the collection and bring education, research, and tourism benefits to the region,” said Irwin M. Jacobs, Phd, member, New Bedford Whaling Museum Advisory Council. “We invite the community to join the many benefactors committed to a timely completion of this exciting project.”

The four-floor, 17,000 square foot building will connect to the existing Whaling Museum campus and be constructed on a site left vacant since the devastating gas explosion of 1977. The Center, scheduled to open in Summer 2015, will house new classrooms, a high-tech Reading Room, climate controlled storage vaults for the Whaling Museum’s collection, a laboratory for the flagship Apprenticeship Program, and a fourth floor multi-use assembly space with majestic views of New Bedford Harbor.

The Center will allow the Whaling Museum to meet its dramatically expanding programming needs and consolidate its holdings onto one campus. Currently, more than 12,000 K-12 students from across New England participate in structured school programs at the Whaling Museum on an annual basis. The Center will provide 3,000 sq. feet of new classroom space, more than quadrupling the Whaling Museum’s existing classroom space. The new classrooms will accommodate concurrent visits and provides flexibility to allow for varied group sizes and teaching approaches. The Center will enhance the Whaling Museum’s ability to actively engage in efforts to improve educational attainment by expanding its meaningful, out-of-the-classroom experience for students and educators.

As the largest cultural attraction in the south coast region, the Whaling Museum draws a diverse constituency. More than half the Museum’s 90,000 annual visitors are drawn from outside of Massachusetts, with one third of visitors coming from other New England states and one third of visitors coming from the remainder of the country and worldwide. The visitor experience will be greatly enhanced as a result of the new Center with the addition of at least 4 new galleries and an entire floor dedicated as a multi-use assembly space for educational activities, conferences and events. For more information on the new Center, visit

Stephanie Poyant Moran
Senior Director of Marketing & Public Relations
New Bedford Whaling Museum
Office: 508-997-0046 x139
Cell: 508-965-9861


About the New Bedford Whaling Museum

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of whales, whaling and the cultural history of the region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Summer hours through October: Daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, visit