About - New Bedford Whaling Museum


Learn the story, mission and values of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

About the New Bedford Whaling Museum

Front entrance to the New Bedford Whaling Museum
Front entrance to the New Bedford Whaling Museum


The New Bedford Whaling Museum ignites learning through explorations of art, history, science and culture rooted in the stories of people, the region and an international seaport.


The Museum seeks to advance understanding related to the influence of the whaling industry and the port of New Bedford on the history, economy, ecology, arts, and cultures of the region, the nation and the world. We will expand our capacity to tell the stories of the many diverse communities that shared in the creation of this history, through excellence in our collections, scholarship, and all forms of public engagement. In doing so the Museum will be recognized as a compelling destination that inspires all visitors to reflect on the complex issues that shaped the past, remain critical today, and inform a sustainable future.

Anchored in the story of New Bedford’s whaling industry, the New Bedford Whaling Museum documents and shares the diverse stories of this vibrant maritime region and its people, both bygone and current.

Historically, whaling was an essential economic driver for our port communities and also for a rapidly expanding and industrializing society. The wealth and economic capacity generated by whaling fueled the growth and diversity of the SouthCoast region.

Founded as part of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society in 1903, the Museum’s rich history reveals an intimate relationship with the communities it serves. Motivated by civic pride and a desire to preserve the artifacts and narratives of the region, the Museum was established by a deeply engaged group of citizens “to create and foster an interest in the history” of the area. Today, the Museum plays a critical role as champions for whale preservation and guardians of our heritage and culture.

Through our partnerships and our Collection, the Museum stands as an institution for learning from, teaching about, and reflecting on humans’ collective impact in our community. Our expanding reach as a cultural and scientific leader can be seen in our growing scholarship, research, and increased presentations of fine art. As a compelling destination that anchors a national park and vibrant urban seaport, we encourage exploration of our region’s cultural, artistic, historic, and scientific contributions. A keeper of the region’s collective memory, the Museum preserves a communal story of the many who settled in the “city that lit the world” and of those who keep the light shining brightly today. From abolitionists to immigrants, merchants to whalers, seamstresses to fisherman, and artists to environmentalists, the New Bedford Whaling Museum boldly weaves their narratives together, inviting visitors to examine complex and sometimes difficult topics that are shaped by our past, remain critical today, and inform a sustainable future.