The Local History Guild - New Bedford Whaling Museum

The Local History Guild

The Local History Guild takes place on AHA! Nights.

Join informal conversations with experts, aficionados, librarians, archivists, curators, historic preservation specialists, historians, and collectors. Topics run the gamut from commercial fishing to historic houses, to the latest acquisitions, collections, or publications. Each moderated conversation is roughly an hour long.

Free and open to the public.
This program made possible in part by:

Upcoming Program

Timekeeping and clockmaking in early new england

Thursday, October 13
6:00 PM (EST)
Free via Zoom - Registration Required

Join the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Curator of Maritime History, Michael P. Dyer, and professional horologist, Robert (Bob) Frishman, for an insightful discussion surrounding horological tools, and timekeeping on land and sea in colonial and early Federal times. Bob Fisherman has professionally repaired nearly 8,000 timepieces and sold more than 1,700 vintage clocks and watches since founding Bell-Time Clocks of Andover, MA, thirty years ago. Turn back the time as Bob shares his experiences and Horology-in-Art projects collect and examine seven centuries of fine art paintings, which include a timepiece within the scene.

Robert Frishman is a Silver Star Fellow of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors and is Chairman of its Time Symposium Committee.  He is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, a London guild chartered in 1631. As a scholar of horology, Bob has published more than 100 articles and reviews and has presented more than 100 lectures to historical societies, service organizations, and academic groups. He recently completed the manuscript for a comprehensive biography of Edward Duffield, a Colonial Philadelphia clockmaker, to be published by the American Philosophical Society.

Past Programs

Captain John Kendrick: Massachusetts Pioneer Mariner to the Pacific, 1787-1794

Thursday, July 14 I 6:00 PM I Free via Zoom

Join the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Curator of Maritime History, Michael P. Dyer, for a conversation with author Scott Ridley, local Wareham historian Malcolm Phinney, and Duxbury Rural and Historical Society Librarian and Archivist Carolyn Ravenscroft, for an understanding about John Kendrick’s long and tragic fur-trading voyage to the Northwest Coast, Hawaii, China, and Japan.

Image caption: Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823), et al. Chart of the Pacific Ocean : drawn from a great number of printed and ms. Journals. London: Published Octr. 1st., 1798 by A. Arrowsmith, no. 5 Charles Street, Soho Square. Engraving on paper. NBWM, 00.222.235.


Thursday, May 11  I  6:00 PM (EST)  I Free via Zoom

Join the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Curator of Maritime History, Michael P. Dyer, for a conversation with author, historian, and whaling biographer Paul Magid, and Martha’s Vineyard Museum Research Librarian, Bow Van Riper, for a lively conversation surrounding a bona fide American whaleman hero, Benjamin Clough. Follow along as each scholar discusses the events surrounding the mutiny on the ship Sharon of Fairhaven in 1842.

Meet the Speaker
A. Bowdoin Van Riper -- "Bow" outside of formal bylines -- is research librarian at the Martha's Vineyard Museum. A historian by training, he received his BA from Brown University and his MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and taught at colleges and universities for 21-years before moving to the Island at the end of 2011. He is the author of Edgartown, a photo-history of the Island's oldest town using images from the MV Museum's collections, and his articles on Island history appear in Martha's Vineyard Magazine and the MV Museum Quarterly. He lives in Vineyard Haven in a 19th century house where, as far as he can tell, nothing of historical significance ever happened.

Understanding Art in New Bedford: History, Sources, and Inspiration

Thursday, April 14  I  6:00 PM (EST)  I Free via Zoom

Join the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Curator of Maritime History, Michael P. Dyer, as he hosts a conversation with a museum curator emeritus and author Mary Jean Blasdale, local artist and documentary historian Ron Fortier, and the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Director of Digital Initiatives, Michael Lapides, as they discuss Fortier’s Artist Index project, its inspiration, and potential applications.

The Southcoast Artists Index is a collective digital archive for the creative community of the Southcoast. The index’s primary goal is to record informative and entertaining In-Focus Podcasts featuring casual conversations with the emerging and established Visual, Performing, and Literary Artists of the Southcoast of Massachusetts. For more information on Southcoast Artists Index, visit


Thursday, March 10  I  6:00 PM (EST)  I  Free via Zoom

Join the Museum’s Lighting the Way’s Project Coordinator, Cathy Saunders, the Curator of Maritime History, Michael P. Dyer, and our team of docents as they explore three familiar New Bedford Whaling Museum galleries through a new lens – the work of women. Women’s work, both paid and unpaid, has always shaped history. This virtual tour will shed new light on three eras of our local history and how critical women were during those periods, while introducing women of Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast.

The virtual tour will begin in the 17th century, exploring the work of colonial English women and then head to sea to learn about the lives of “whaling wives." The tour will make its final stop with stories from the 19th and 20th century of women in the textile industry. 


Thursday, February 10  I  6:00 PM (EST)  I  Free via Zoom

Join the next Local History Guild with the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Curator of Maritime History, Michael P. Dyer, as he moderates an insightful and traditional “show and tell” style conversation.

A cross-section of collectors, curators, and enthusiasts from Duxbury to Tiverton will share their favorite historical objects in a lively and engaging discussion. Featured guests include the Whaling Museum’s Douglas and Cynthia Crocker Endowed Chair for the Chief Curator, Naomi Slipp, and the Director of Collections, D. Jordan Berson, along with Allie Copeland, Melanie Correia, Brian Fernandes, Abigail Field, Eric Johnson, Nick Taradash, and a New Bedford Whaling Museum volunteer.


Thursday, December 9, 2021 | 6 PM | FREE on Zoom

Whaling Museum Curator of Maritime History, Michael P. Dyer moderated a discussion with local historians and people who were present when the face of New Bedford changed permanently. Four distinguished panelists, William do Carmo, Esq., Jennifer Smith, Joan Henderson Beaubian, and David Kennedy, discussed New Bedford's period of urban renewal from the 1930s to1970s, drawing on scholarship, firsthand observations, and the records of the New Bedford Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade.


Thursday, October 14, 2021 | 7 PM | In-person event
Jonathan Bourne Historical Center - 30 Keene Street, Bourne, MA

Sailing Day off Palmer's Island - detail from a Charles Sydney Raleigh paintngNew Bedford Whaling Museum Curator of Maritime History, Michael P. Dyer moderated this discussion with Ron and Tracy Lindholm of Cape Cod Picture Framing and Preservation about the recent restoration and exhibition of two massive marine paintings by local artist Charles Sidney Raleigh.

Image: Detail of a painting Sailing Day, off Palmer’s Island, New Bedford: Ship Niger, from a panel of Charles Sidney Raleigh’s Panorama of a Whaling Voyage in the Ship Niger, 1878. Oil on canvas. 75 x 135 inches. NBWM #1918.27.

Race and the Voting Block in Antebellum New Bedford

Thursday, September 9, 2021 | 6PM | Free via Zoom

We enjoyed a conversation about race, voting, and politics in nineteenth century New Bedford and America during this Local History Guild.

Whaling Museum Curator of Maritime History Michael P. Dyer moderated this discussion with esteemed scholars Van Gosse, author of "The First Reconstruction: Black Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War," and David Waldstreicher, Editor of "Revolutions and Reconstructions: Black Politics in the Long Nineteenth Century."

Photo Caption: From a Pen and Ink Sketch by Elisha C. Leonard, Esq.

All Hands!

Thursday, August 12, 2021 | 6PM | Free via Zoom

Image of sea chart

Distinguished scholars came together for Local History Guild to discuss points of intersection between 19th century commercial whaling and the U.S. Navy. Whaling Museum Curator of Maritime History Michael P. Dyer moderated this discussion with local historians, authors, and antiquarian book dealers David R. Nelson and Greg Gibson. Explore mutiny, Herman Melville, Pacific explorations, and the place of New Bedford mariners in peace and war, during this free online event on AHA New Bedford night.

IMAGE: A Chart of the sea coast of Newfoundland, New Scotland, New England, New York, New Jersey, with Virginia and Maryland. London: Printed for W. and J. Mount, T. Page and son, on Tower Dash-Hill MDCCLIX [1759}

A Press for the People: Enabling Local History Access at a National Level

Thursday, July 8, 2021 | 6PM | Free via Zoom

Local historians Robert Demanche and Peggi Medeiros join Mike Kinsella of The History Press and Arcadia Publishing, for a discussion about the impacts, viability, and value to local communities of a nation-wide publisher of local history books.

New Bedford Whaling Museum Curator of Maritime History Michael P. Dyer moderates this free, virtual Local History Guild event on AHA! New Bedford night.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

In Pursuit of History: A Conversation About a Great Americana Collection

Book cover of In Pursuit of HistoryJoin editors H. Richard Dietrich III, Deborah M. Rebuke, and the museum's Curator of Maritime History and publication contributor, Michael P. Dyer, for a discussion around their newest publication, In Pursuit of History: A Lifetime Collecting Colonial Art and Artifacts.


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Sea Faring, The Underground Railroad, and Slavery in the Coastal Northeast

Schooner Ellenor, Boston; by William Bradford, Oil on canvas, circa 1854.Join editor Timothy D. Walker, Ph.D. and author Jonathan M. Olly, Ph.D., and the museum’s Curator of Maritime History, Michael P. Dyer, for a discussion around two of their newest publications, Sailing to Freedom, and Long Road to Freedom, featuring topics surrounding sea faring, the Underground Railroad, and slavery in the coastal Northeast.

Buy a copy of Sailing to Freedom here. Enjoy 30% Off & Free Shipping with code: MAS022

Thursday, March 11, 2021

“How do we trust?: Documentary photography past and present” with Peter Pereira, Photojournalist

Join internationally acclaimed photojournalist Peter Pereira, who is currently working for the New Bedford Standard-Times, the Museum’s Director of Digital Initiatives Michael Lapides, and Curator of Maritime History Michael P. Dyer, for a conversation around the history of ethics in photojournalism and the future of documentary photography in the digital age. Learn more about Peter’s work.

Noonday fire at Elm and Cottage Street

Photo Caption: Noonday fire at Elm and Cottage Street.” Standard-Times, April 17, 1914. A closer look reveals that this is a drycleaners, which burned probably from using the very naptha method advertised. This little-documented technique had disappeared by the mid-20th century probably because of the volatility of the cleaning agent.


February 11, 2021

“His Record Lives: William P. Randall and the Battle of Hampton Roads” with Gordon Calhoun

Join the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Curator of Maritime History, Michael P. Dyer, and the National Museum of the United States Navy’s historian and curator, Gordon Calhoun, as they discuss Calhoun’s recent project, “His Record Lives: William P. Randall and the Battle of Hampton Roads.” Gordon comes to this conversation with 26-years experience working for the Navy museum system, including 19-years at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. He specializes in 19th-century Naval History, the history of animals in the Navy, and U.S. Navy museum exhibits.

1862 battle HR sinking of Cumberland

Photo Caption: 1862: The Battle of HR Sinking – Sinking of USS Cumberland from the Battles and Leaders series.



CANCELLED: April 9, 2020

Author Talk: Peggi Medeiros – Harriet Jacobs in New Bedford

Harriet Jacobs book cover

Join local historian and author Peggi Medeiros, and archivist Carole Foster, for a discussion of Medeiros’ new book, Harriet Jacobs in New Bedford (Charleston, 2020). Using a wide variety of primary sources, Medeiros tells this gripping tale of a woman who escaped slavery in 1840, wound up in New York in 1842, and later grew to develop a deep and abiding friendship with Cornelia Grinnell Willis of New Bedford. Harriet Jacob’s story is a remarkable parallel to the life of Frederick Douglass, and a uniquely detailed look at the lives of two women of disparate backgrounds in a mid-nineteenth century seaport.

painting of woman in white dress

February 13, 2020

Chief Curator, Christina Connett-Brophy and Curator of Social History Akeia Benard discussed William Allen Wall’s allegorical painting, The Nativity of Truth. Michael P. Dyer moderated the discussion and read sections from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 essay, Nature.

Born a New Bedford Quaker Wall earned his living as a self-taught portrait painter but he sought greater themes. In this allegorical interpretation, possibly based on the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wall replaced the iconic American figure of Lady Columbia/Liberty with a similar character. Does she represent a view of American Manifest Destiny, or perhaps other ideas such as Nature as a defining good unto herself? “Truth, and goodness, and beauty, are but different faces of the same All.”

Photo Caption: William Allen Wall, The Nativity of Truth, or the Spirit of the Age. Oil on canvas, circa 1849-1853.

image of 1901 bill -- Morgan

December 12, 2019

New Bedford Whaling Museum Librarian Mark Procknik and Curator Michael Dyer displayed a “show and tell” of maritime documents from the museum’s permanent collection.

Hundreds of different types of documents from authorized Consular Certificates to receipts scribbled on scraps of paper make up the primary materials of maritime history.

Photo Caption: Paid invoice on bark Charles W. Morgan & Owners, dated San Francisco, November 26, 1901, for carpentry and repairs. KWM Loose Manuscript Collection