Behind the Scenes: The New Bedford Whaling Museum Collection and Its Challenges


Thursday, February 17, 2022
Via Zoom
7:00 - 8:00 PM Zoom Roundtable Discussion

- Naomi Slipp, NBWM Chief Curator,
- Jordan Berson, NBWM Director of Collections
- Steven Lubar, Professor of American Studies, History, and History of Arts & Architecture, Brown University

Join Naomi Slipp, NBWM Chief Curator, and Jordan Berson, NBWM Director of Collections, for a roundtable discussion with Steven Lubar, Professor of American Studies, History, and History of Art & Architecture of Brown University, as they discuss the challenges and benefits of managing a large Museum collection. Among the topics discussed will be unusual objects - some very large (panorama paintings, ship models, and whaling tools) and an array of types, including those made of challenging materials, such as glass, fur, bone, or corroded metal (underwater archeology items). In this hour-long talk, experts will answer questions such as, “How do we care for, preserve, and protect our collections?” “How do we store and handle these items properly?” “What do examples, like the Raleigh Panorama, teach us about our own collecting history, past conservation techniques, and current standards of care?” and “What are the responsibilities of museums toward their collections, and how do we balance that with financial realities and ethical concerns?” 

About Steven Lubar

Steven Lubar, a professor of American studies at Brown University, writes and teaches on museums and museum history, public and digital humanities, and the history of technology and skill. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship helped support his most recent book, Inside the Lost Museum: Curating, Past and Present. Before coming to Brown, he was a curator at the National Museum of American History, where he helped develop exhibitions including “America on the Move” and “Smithsonian’s America.” At Brown, he has been director of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage and the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. He is currently faculty director of Brown’s Center for Digital Scholarship.

About UNVARNISHED: Conservation of Charles Sidney Raliegh’s Panorama of a Whaling Voyage

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. The New Bedford Whaling Museum owns 18 of the Raleigh panorama scenes, each measuring over six feet tall and 12 feet wide. Unvarnished features eight of the paintings. Four additional panels are currently on display in other galleries within the Whaling Museum. They engagingly depict scenes of whaling in vivid color, with detail and liveliness. However, they require substantial conservation work.