Illustrated Seminar “Scrimshaw 101” at the Whaling Museum

An Introduction for Newcomers and a Refresher for Seasoned Hands

NEW BEDFORD, Mass.  — Have you ever wanted to learn more about scrimshaw, the indigenous shipboard art of 19th century whalemen? Now you can, guided by one of the world’s foremost authorities on scrimshaw at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, on Saturday, October 8 from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Scrimshaw 101 is a one-day illustrated seminar presented by Stuart M. Frank, Ph.D., Senior Curator Emeritus of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and the faculty of the Scrimshaw Forensics® team. Registration: Whaling Museum Members: $35; Non-Members: $50; includes two coffee breaks, buffet lunch, all study material, and admission to all Whaling Museum galleries.  Register at or by calling 508-997-0046 ext. 100. Handouts, bibliographies and reference materials will be provided. Topics will include definitions, distinguishing characteristics of authentic whalemen’s work, technical background, attention to pictorial works, authenticating scrimshaw, restoring scrimshaw and more.

Scrimshaw provides scholars and historians with a unique window into an early American industry, as well as unusual insights into 19th-century work and family life. The art and craft of scrimshaw are inextricably tied to the history, economics, and shipboard dynamics of the American whaling industry.  Scrimshaw emerged contemporaneously with the most vigorous epoch in American maritime enterprise.  What began as humble shipboard toolmaking evolved into an occupational art form, keeping idle hands busy during long voyages.  Work that was little valued in the past has come to be appreciated in recent decades as valuable artworks and historically significant, occupationally rooted artifacts.

“This course will present the scrimshaw basics, but with all the bells and whistles. We’ll very quickly get into the significance of scrimshaw as a highly collectable antique art form and provide critical perspective into its historical and artistic importance,” Dr. Frank said.

In the original shipboard context, the classic American whaling era, the Age of Moby-Dick, scrimshaw broadly referred to the decorative and practical creations of whalemen and other sailors in their leisure hours at sea, using the hard byproducts of whaling: sperm whale ivory, walrus ivory, and baleen, which had little market value. 


Contact: Tina Malott
Communications Manager
New Bedford Whaling Museum
508-997-0046 Ext. 140 (office)


About the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of human interaction with whales through time, and the history and culture of the South Coast 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. Museum hours April through December: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum is open until 8 p.m. every second Thursday of the month. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Admission is: Free for Museum members and children aged three and under; adults $16, seniors (65+) $14, students (19+) $9, child and youth $6. For more information, visit Programming and schedules are subject to change. Please check the website for the most up-to-date information.