The Local History Guild

The Local History Guild conjoins on AHA! Nights in the galleries of the Museum.

Where once the Guild featured individual speakers, this season features a new format: conversations among area 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 30-minute program features specialists who will discuss the topics of their interest, trends, initiatives, projects and sometimes even new books, or public access databases of relevance to our local historical landscape.

Free and open to the public. No advance registration necessary.

Upcoming Program

painting of woman in white dress

Thursday, February 13, 2020
6–7 pm in the Link Gallery

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

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


Past Programs

image of 1901 bill -- MorganDecember 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.

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


Ellen Kempton

November 14, 2019
Teaching the Freed People: Reading the Diary of Ellen Kempton
Many New Bedford women did their part to support the education of newly freed people by joining the ranks of the Freedman’s Bureau as educators. Ivy MacMahon and Lee Blake of the New Bedford Historical Society discussed and shared the found diary of Ellen Kempton, an abolitionist who traveled South to teach after the Civil War.



Mary Tallman Willis oil painting

October 10, 2019
The Complex Histories of the Women of the South Coast
Ann O’Leary, librarian at Bishop Stang High School, New Bedford, and Emily Bourne Research Fellow at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, discussed her research and writing. Christina Turner, Director of Education at the Whaling Museum also took part in the conversation.

Caption: Mary Tallman Willis Hawes, Annis Sharper at the Thomas Taber House. Oil on canvas, c. 1850.


archival photo of women musiciansSeptember 12, 2019
The History of Public Music in New Bedford
A conversation concerning the history of public patronage, the aspirations of public education, and the history of public cultural and educational development in New Bedford with Dave Prentiss, President of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and Lynn Souza, New Bedford Public Schools’ Director of Fine Arts.

Caption: Anonymous, The Ladies Imperial Orchestra performing live. c. 1910. Gift of Robert S. Dennie. 1995.8.2.1


New Bedford postcardAugust 8, 2019
The Public Face of Regional History
A conversation with New Bedford City Preservation Planner Anne Louro and New Bedford Whaling Museum Director of Digital Initiatives Michael Lapides.



book cover Under sun star sailsJuly 11, 2019
Lecture & Book Signing: Under Sun, Stars and Sails – A Whaling Family’s Life at Sea by Marsha Hall Brown & Tom Hall 
Marsha Hall Brown, author of the new book Under Sun, Stars and Sails – A Whaling Family’s Life at Sea addressed the interpersonal relationships between Captain Joseph Marshall, his wife Malvina Pinkham Marshall and their little daughter Helen. The extraordinary narrative of the Marshall family of Nantucket who left New Bedford on their whaling voyages to the Pacific was discussed by Tom Hall as a secular parable whose broader historical context reaches back to the preliminary clashes of the Revolutionary War and forward to unsettling portents of a threatening future.

bookcover Went to the Devil July 11, 2019
Lives in the Wake of Whaling Masters
A conversation with author Anthony J. Connors about his new book Went to the Devil: A Yankee Whaler in the Slave Trade (Amherst, 2019).



June 13, 2019
Attendees joined local historian Rev. John Douhan of South Dartmouth for a pictorial overview and discussion of the history of the Baptist faith in southern New England.

Caption: Joseph S. Martin photographed the Elim Baptist Church in New Bedford around 1920.





two churchesApril 11, 2019
Historical Perspectives on Religion and Society in the Old Dartmouth Region
Moderator: Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
A conversation with the Reverend Pamela Cole, Instructor in Humanities and History at Bristol Community College, and the Reverend Doctor John Douhan, Baptist historian.

Caption: View of the North Congregational Church (the Stone Church) and the North Christian Church (the White Church) circa 1900.


Cuffe SilhouetteMarch 14, 2019
A conversation on the life and legacy of Captain Paul Cuffe
A discussion of the many important features to Cuffe’s life and legacy, his past and present significance to the community, and what that legacy may mean in years to come, with local historian and Cuffe family descendant Lee Blake, and NBWM Curator of Social History, Akeia Benard, Ph.D.


postcard-New Bedford-mills

December 13, 2018
What’s in Your Postcards? Art, History, and Architecture in Public Pictorial Formats

Moderator: Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
A discussion of New Bedford and Dartmouth postcards with local authors, collectors, and historians, Judith N. Lund and David R. Nelson.


uss cumberland

November 8, 2018
Off-site Location: Fort Taber Military Museum
Host Michael P. Dyer talked with Joe Langlois, President of the Military Museum and Ray L’Heureux, Vice President, about the mission of the Military Museum, its collections, and other features of interest surrounding the site of Fort Taber.

Caption: Confederate ironclad Virginia, a.k.a. Merrimac rams the sloop-of-war USS Cumberland during the battle of Hampton Roads, March 8, 1862. Onboard the Cumberland was New Bedford native Acting Master William P. Randall who famously commanded the pivot gun that continued to fire as the ship sank. Harper’s Weekly, March 22, 1862.


Joseph Schumacher Russell - diningroomOctober 11, 2018
Historic Houses: Techniques, Ideas, and Goals for their Interpretation
Moderator: Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
The speakers were the Executive Director of the Rotch-Jones-Duff House, Dawn Estabrooks Salerno, and the Curator of Art from the New Bedford Free Public Library, Janice Hodson. The topic for discussion was “Historic Houses: Techniques, Ideas, and Goals for their Interpretation.”

Caption: Joseph Schumacher Russell, “Dining room of Dr Whitridge’s as it was in the winter 1814-15,” circa 1814-15. Watercolor on paper. NBWM 1962.4.3


Old four corners

September 13, 2018
The National Park Service and its Local Communities
Moderator: Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
A conversation with colleagues from the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, Janine V. da Silva, Acting Chief of Interpretation & Education/Cultural Resource Specialist, and Andrew Schnetzer, Supervisory Ranger focused generally on the Park Service and its role in local history, and specifically, interpretive strategies that the Park Service engages in New Bedford.

Caption: William Allen Wall, “New Bedford, 1807, Old Four Corners,” 1852-1857. Oil on canvas. NBWM 00.34


Crucible by BrightmanAugust 9, 2018
New Bedford: How Art and Collaboration Can Change a City
Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
A conversation with Milton Brightman, whose paintings and drawings are on exhibit in Into Infinity at the Museum, and sculptor and wood carver Chuck Hauck, former president of Gallery X in New Bedford. The discussion examined how artists perceive and interpret regional history.  

Caption: Milton H. Brightman, The Crucible, Oil on oak, Collection of the Artist


photo of fishermen with catch

June 14, 2018
Local Fishermen: Their Lives and Legacies
Moderator: Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
Michael P. Dyer sat down with New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center Director Laura Orleans, and Fairhaven’s Millicent Library Archivist Debbie Charpentier, to talk over the important work that Debbie has done to increase public awareness and access to the legacies of local fishermen, and Laura Orlean’s important work at the Fishing Heritage Center.

Caption: Albert Cook Church, Mackerel coming aboard in a dip net, c. 1930.


Mary Tallman Willis oil painting

May 10, 2018
Historic House Stories: A Conversation about People and their Dwellings in New Bedford and Fairhaven
Moderator: Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
Beth Luey, historian and author of House Stories: The Meanings of Home in a New England Town (Amherst, 2017) from Fairhaven, and Mark Fuller, President of the New Bedford Preservation Society, conversed about historical architecture, the stories that can be generated and understood from the systematic study of house histories, and the importance of historic preservation.

Caption: Mary Tallman Willis, Indian Annis and Thomas Taber House, Oil on canvas, c. 1850.


Ricketson sketch detail

April 12, 2018
The Life and Times of Daniel Ricketson (1813-1898), Author, Intellectual, and New Bedford’s Transcendentalist Roamer of Rural Byways
Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
A conversation with local historians Bob Maker and Carl Simmons delved into the complex personality of one of the city’s most unusual minds. Ricketson wrote the first history of New Bedford in 1858. He was a naturalist, a lover of birds, plants, trees, and wild landscapes. He was a devout family man. He was a poet and music lover. He was friends with Henry David Thoreau and corresponded with Ralph Waldo Emerson. Like Thoreau, Ricketson built himself a shanty in the woods north of town and there he wrote extensively commenting on the world around him: “with fierce madness their base conflicts wage.” He even drew a watercolor sketch of his own shanty with himself sitting and musing in the doorway around 1870. All this and more was the grist for the evening’s conversation. 


detail of chart

March 8, 2018
Common Lives in the Coastal Region: Interpretive Patterns for Historical Societies
Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
Marjorie O’Toole, Director of the Little Compton Historical Society and Jeffrey Miller, Ph.D. Director and Curator of the Mattapoisett Historical Society discussed “Common Lives in the Coastal Region: Interpretive Patterns for Historical Societies.” 

Caption: Detail from A New Chart of the Coast of America from Philadelphia to Halifax Harbor Shewing the Tracks of the American Survey Vessels Science and Orbit. A New Edition Improved by J.W. Norie, Hydrographer [London], 1825.


February 8, 2018
The Westport and Dartmouth Milieu in the Age of  Paul Cuffe
Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
Experts were Robert Harding, Ph.D. from the Dartmouth Historical and Arts Society and Richard Gifford, an independent scholar from Westport.


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