The Cabinet of Curiosities

Artifact Installation in the Cook Memorial Theater

The Cabinet of Curiosities is a “visible storage” installation that displays the Museum’s striking collection of figureheads, sternboards, half-hull models, portraits, and ship wrights’ tools. It takes its name from the 16th century European concept of the Wunderkammer, or Cabinet of Wonders, which were encyclopedic collections of antiquities or natural specimens available for public viewing. This installation enhances the unique architecture of the Cook Memorial Theater by dramatically displaying these objects for visitors as a collection. When you visit, be sure to look for the following highlights:

photograph of figurehead Pocahantas

Pocohontas Figurehead
This figurehead has been attributed to well-known sculptor William Rush of Philadelphia and was carved around 1823.

photograph of sternboard above shipwright shop photograph of sternboard installation

Eagle sternboard above the door of shipwright W.H. Crook’s shop. NBWM# M-58

The eagle sternboard from the bark ATLANTIC was installed in the Museum’s Cook Memorial Theater in February, 2015.

The eagle sternboard from the bark Atlantic 
The Atlantic was built in New Bedford in 1851 and was wrecked on the coast of California in 1886. The sternboard was salvaged from the wreck and, before coming into the museum collection in 1933, it hung over the doorway of New Bedford shipwright W. H. Crook.

The Monongahela quarterboard
This quarterboard was one of the few items salvaged from the wreck of the Monongahela in the Aleutian Islands while under the command of Jason Seabury in 1853.

Model whaleboat
Joshua H. Delano of Fairhaven built 4 model whaleboats for the Whaling Museum at a cost of $950.00 apiece in 1916.


History of the Cook Memorial Theater

The Theater was dedicated on April 21, 1972, in memory of Otis Seabury Cook and Katherine Lee Mathews Cook by their son and daughters Seabury Cook, Helen Cook and Barbara Cook Porter. Otis Seabury Cook was a prominent New Bedford lawyer who served on the board of trustees for several local organizations. Since the theater’s opening, it has hosted thousands of programs, from scholarly symposia and meetings to civic events and community gatherings. Recent renovations upgraded the audio-visual systems, lights, and stage area. Over the decades, the space has served as a place to exhibit large paintings, such as the Charles Sydney Raleigh panorama and pieces from the decorative sternboard collection. The Cabinet of Curiosities installation continues this tradition.


BayCoast Bank Stage

The Cook Memorial Theater features the BayCoast Bank Stage, dedicated at the 112th Annual Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society on May 29, 2015. The Stage recognizes BayCoast Bank’s longtime support of the Museum and their support of the renovation of the Cook Memorial Theater.

Last modified: October 17, 2017