Wider World & Scrimshaw - New Bedford Whaling Museum

The Wider World & Scrimshaw

Iñupiat maker once known (possibly Port Clarence mission school), Iñupiaq men holding cultural belongings, c. 1890s. Pencil and ink on paper, NBWM 1914.35.4.

The Wider World & Scrimshaw

New Bedford Whaling Museum

Wattles Gallery

June 14 – November 11, 2024


Tuesday, June 11, 2024, 5:30-6:30pm
Local History Guild FREE Virtual Program

Ymelda Rivera Laxton and Cora-Allan Lafaiki Twiss, “Hiapo and links between New Bedford and Niue”

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Friday, June 14, 2024, 5:30-7pm
Exhibition Opening Reception

Members and Invitees only
RSVP required


Saturday, June 15 – June 24
Members’ Trip to Alaska

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Thursday, July 11, 2024, 5:00-7:00pm
AHA! Night Family program

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Thursday, August 1, 2024, 6:00pm
One with the Whale, A Documentary Film

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Friday, September 6, 2024, 6:00pm

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Friday, October 4, 2024, 5:00-7:00pm
“Wider World” First Friday Public Program
Conversation with artist Courtney M. Leonard

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Wednesday, November 6, 2024, 6:00pm

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Saturday & Sunday, November 9-10, 2024
Closing Weekend: Last Chance!

The Wider World & Scrimshaw

The Wider World & Scrimshaw takes the Museum’s scrimshaw collection (objects carved by whalers on the byproducts of marine mammals) and places it in conversation with carved decorative arts and material culture made by Indigenous community members from across the Pacific and Arctic. Native communities across Oceania, the Pacific, and Arctic have cosmologies related to whales, distinctive maritime traditions involving marine mammals, and vibrant carving styles. They were also impacted by commercial whaling ventures in the 1800s, and the external pressures of colonialism and Western empire-building.

This interdisciplinary, community-driven, and collections-focused project engages questions about identity, place, and material, and considers how exploration and whaling impacted the production of material culture in this diverse region between 1700 and today. The exhibition showcases over 300 objects, paying particular attention to ones that indicate cultural and material exchanges. How did whaling (internal or external) impact these different communities and their unique art forms – from New Bedford to Aotearoa to Utqiaġvik? In what ways do these legacies continue within contemporary art, communities, and cultures?

The exhibition considers different cultural products from Oceanic material culture and Arctic carvings to engraved sperm whale teeth, and explores issues related to trade, markets, taste, and patterns of popular consumption; assumptions about materials (coconut shells, whale teeth, walrus ivory, human hair), their circulation, and animal agency; differences between cultural and commercial value systems; disciplinary hierarchies related to craft traditions, folk-art, anthropology, and “fine” art; and gender roles, for making and consumption.

Organized in consultation with a diverse advisory board of artists, scholars, and culture bearers and in partnership with NBWM curators, this sweeping exhibition explores the rich cultural traditions, carving forms, and material exchanges that emerged in cultural contact zones across the Pacific world and continue to shape artistic practice and communities today.


Use this guide to facilitate conversations in your classroom before a museum tour, on self-guided visits, or in lieu of a physical visit.

coming soon


Hear from artists, curators, and exhibition organizers as they guide you through the exhibition and discuss the context and themes surrounding the objects on view.

coming soon

The Wider World & Scrimshaw is organized by the New Bedford Whaling Museum


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