Past Exhibitions - New Bedford Whaling Museum

Past Exhibitions

Past Exhibitions


This exhibition, based on Stan Grayson’s newly published A Man for All Oceans: Captain Joshua Slocum and the first solo voyage around the world, explores the life of Slocum particularly in regards to his monumental and most well-known voyage alone on the Spray.

This exhibition demonstrates how the Underground Railroad enabled people to escape enslavement by sea prior to the Civil War.

Art from this seminal twentieth century painter reflects Portuguese identity and culture, and honors the artist’s Azorean roots.

Delicate and monumental installations by ceramicist, sculptor, ocean advocate Mattison poignantly illustrate the widespread, devastating effects of ocean warming and pollution on marine species.

Between 1878 and 1880, the prolific British-born artist Charles Sidney Raleigh undertook a daring artistic venture: a monumental panorama of twenty-two whaling scenes from the four-year voyage of the Niger.

This special exhibit features artwork by the student winners of the international Ocean Awareness Contest run by local nonprofit Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs.


This critically acclaimed landmark exhibition brought together masterworks across the career of New Bedford native, Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917). Explore the artworks and exhibition themes with our digital resources.

John Bockstoce has been described as an “Arctic Ulysses.” An Arctic anthropologist, historian, and archaeologist with a deep appreciation for Arctic people and culture, Bockstoce navigated the Northwest Passage—an icy and dangerous voyage—over the course of a decade.

April 1913 through September 1914 the schooner Polar Bear took nineteen men from Seattle up through the Aleutian Islands, around Alaska, and to parts of Siberia.

Alison Wells fuses significant local influences along with Caribbean culture and sensibilities to create unique and vibrant mixed media, large scale paintings.

Artist Talk – Loomings: Melville, Art and the Climate Crisis

While many seal species use the waters off of New Bedford, harbor seals and gray seals are the most common and have a year-round presence in New England and beyond.


De Wind is OP! explored our extraordinary collections of Golden Age Dutch and Flemish paintings through a fresh lens.

The exhibition George Gale: ‘A Sea-nurtured Artist’, highlighted the whaling and maritime themes explored by Gale, one of the last important artists to document the New Bedford’s whale fishery from firsthand observation.

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. Our galleries have been host to many dynamic exhibitions throughout the years and we have been honored to share our Collections and the stories they tell with visitors from near and far.

This exhibition took us through a photographic journey showing how the Museum has changed and adapted since 1903.

This special exhibit features artwork by the student winners of the international Ocean Awareness Contest run by local nonprofit Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs.

New Bedford is an extraordinary place of infinite possibilities where different paths from around the world have intersected and defined the city’s character.

Many of the photos were from the Prescott collection, which show moments in time that were memorable and important to the Prescott family.

The primary means of that change included increased reliance upon the railroad, and increased reliance upon coal as the primary energy source to power growing industrial manufacturing including textile mills and other heavy industry.

This online exhibit of images from our Standard Times collection explores intimate portraits of individuals living and working in New Bedford during the early 20th century.

Through local, indigenous, contemporary art, this exhibition will conceptualize the significance of the 2020 quadricentennial from a native perspective.

A special exhibit at New Bedford Whaling Museum featuring remarkable, historic women who shaped their SouthCoast communities, the nation, and the world.

Norman Fortier is best known nationally as a photographer, particularly for his maritime pictures of yachts and regattas taken in and around Buzzards Bay, Narragansett Bay, and other popular waters of New England.

Sails and the wind drove humankind around the watery globe. The wind drove maritime commerce. It drove cultures. It raised up nations and destroyed them. It brought fortunes, heartbreak, exhilaration, and tragedy.


In 1973, a weathered man who looked like an old seaman walked into the Photography Department in Arlan’s Department Store on Brooks Street in New Bedford.

Former Whaling Museum curator Nicholas Whitman exhibits a selection of his recent photographic work adjacent to the Whaling Museum’s Albert Pinkham Ryder painting, Landscape, c. 1870. 

The Cape Verdean experience is simultaneously a longing for “home,” recognition of the difficulties Cape Verdeans have faced throughout history, and the creative and unique ways that Cape Verdeans have adapted and persevered in Cabo Verde, New Bedford and beyond.

This exhibition explored a local South Coast artist working in oil paint, pen and ink, and watercolor to create works autobiographical in nature reflecting his interests in landscape painting and figure composition and his eternal search for the meaning of life.

The paintings in Masterworks of Marine Painting were a selection of the finest oil paintings of maritime scenes in the Museum’s collection.

Buried deep within the logbooks, journals, and manuscripts of America’s whaling heritage are paintings, drawings, and representations of the whale hunt rarely, if ever, seen by the public.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum curated four exhibitions on the first floor of the Mariners’ Home that brought to life the era when the boarding house was bustling with maritime guests and told the story of how the Mariners’ Home came to be.

On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress declared war upon the German Empire. The Museum honored the veterans of World War I with an exhibition of vintage wartime posters.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum celebrates the work of the master knot tyer, maritime artist, historian, and author Clifford W. Ashley in a monumental exhibition opening in one of the Museum’s most prestigious galleries.

In celebration of the program’s approaching 10th anniversary, apprentices reflected on the program’s previous nine years and documented stories and experiences of apprentices past and present. Young & Powerful was an audio-based exhibition which offered a glimpse into the history and impact of the program as well as the personalities and identities of the apprentices themselves.


Three decades ago, the last Azorean whalemen set out from island shores in 40-foot boats to hunt whales. Today, the Azorean whaleboat lives on as a symbol of Portuguese-American heritage.

This exhibition explored Marion history as it rose in social and cultural prominence in the late 19th century as a destination resort community for noteworthy individuals from President Grover Cleveland to artist Charles Dana Gibson.

The Cuffe Kitchen was a multi-media experience providing an opportunity to ponder the social and racial issues faced by prominent merchant, philanthropist, community leader, civil rights advocate and abolitionist Captain Paul Cuffe (1759–1817).

Harbor Seals (left) by 11th grade student Linda Palominos was one of more than 50 works of marine art on display in the Whaling Museum’s San Francisco Gallery as part of an exhibition featuring winners of the Massachusetts Marine Educators (MME) 2017 Marine Art Contest for K-12 students.

From Pursuit to Preservation: The History of Human Interaction with Whales explained and explored the human fascination with whales and the history of whaling in New Bedford in a global context.

Among the great treasures of the New Bedford Whaling Museum are its collection of works by local painters of renown. Artists like R. Swain Gifford, William Bradford, Lemuel Eldred, Clement Nye Swift, and Charles Henry Gifford achieved fame in their lifetimes for their vision, skill, and often documentary prowess.

Installed on the first floor of the restored Bourne Building “Harpoons and Whalecraft” displayed the full spectrum of whaling weaponry devised in the 19th century, from classic harpoons to massive guns, providing new insight into what amounted to the greatest big-game hunt ever pursued by man.

By going back to the origins, contexts, impact and memories of the First World War, the exhibition titled Portugal and the Great War: Contexts and Protagonists (1914-1918)  examines the various aspects of Portuguese participation in this global conflict.

James E. Reed (1864-1939) was a prominent African American photographer in New Bedford. Having done photography for 34 years, Reed took photos of New Bedford and its citizens.

The exhibition presented America’s longest painting – longer than the Empire State Building is tall. All 1,275 feet of the Panorama was on exhibit to awe visitors. This was the first time in generations that the entire Panorama could be seen by the public.

The star attraction was an abstract painting by two of New Bedford’s most beloved residents: Asian elephants Ruth and Emily from the Buttonwood Park Zoo. The 24” x 24” painting in bold primary colors was part of Timeless Toys, a special exhibition for children featuring antique and vintage toys, Punch and Judy puppets, books, comic books, games, and circus memorabilia.


An exhibition of illustrations by renowned Norwegian-American artist Claus Hoie, who specialized in whaling subjects and Moby-Dick-inspired scenes.

At the beginning of the 20th century, whales were prized for both their meat and oils. Norway imposed a ten year ban on whaling in their waters in 1904 due to their own depleted stocks. As a result, Norwegian whalers wished to expand their operations in other areas.

Famine, Friends & Fenians explored New Bedford’s curious role in Irish history from the 18th century through the famous “Easter Rising” in 1916. This is a story that can only be told in New Bedford. It weaves through three centuries of struggle both in the US and in Ireland, starting as early as 1776 and running up to the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916.

Highlighting the Whaling Museum’s extensive collection of William Bradford (1823-1892) oil paintings, watercolors and sketchbooks, Inner Light was a retrospective exhibition of this important regional artist’s life, career, connections and influences.

Throughout Moby-Dick Melville gives clues as to how Ahab managed to actually locate one whale in all the planet’s seas. These clues had their basis in actual whaling practice.

The Melville Society Archive housed at the New Bedford Whaling Museum has acquired original Moby-Dick artworks every year since 2009. In 2016 the Archive acquired seven mixed-media prints by Robert Del Tredici, who created his first artworks in response to Moby-Dick in the mid-1960s.

Pereira’s images tell stories both joyful and tragic with a raw, but sensitive honesty in stunning visual compositions.

The exhibition was a companion to two Museum publications, No Ordinary Being: W. Starling Burgess, Inventor, Naval Architect, Aviation Pioneer, and Master of American Design by Llewellyn Howland III and A Genius at His Trade: C. Raymond Hunt and His Remarkable Boats by Stan Grayson.

This companion exhibition to Enlightened Encounters focuses on the broader connections between the eastern seaboard of America and Asia. Drawing from its permanent collections, the Museum presents a deep look at relationships built between American whalers and merchants and the East.

The star attraction was an abstract painting by two of New Bedford’s most beloved residents: Asian elephants Ruth and Emily from the Buttonwood Park Zoo. The 24” x 24” painting in bold primary colors was part of Timeless Toys, a special exhibition for children featuring antique and vintage toys, Punch and Judy puppets, books, comic books, games, and circus memorabilia.


Signifying the Whale Signifying the Whale is crowd-sourced and generated from this continually expanding Flickr group. On the day the exhibit opened the pool consisted of close to 1,450 images, submitted by hundreds of different photographers, from aro …


Whaling Museum exhibit honors local role in opening Japan 150 years ago


William Bradford: Sailing Ships & Arctic Seas William Bradford: Sailing Ships & Arctic Seas Opened: June 1, 2003 On May 23rd, the art of marine and Arctic painter William Bradford (1823-1892) went on view as the showcase exhibition of the New …