Whaling History Symposium

Graphic for 37th Whaling History Symposium 2013











Thank you to all presenters and participants for another successful Whaling History Symposium! Hope to see you again in 2014.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is pleased to announce the program for its 37th Whaling History Symposium, to be held at the Museum on Saturday, October 19 and Sunday, October 20, 2013. The Whaling History Symposium, first established in 1975, brings scholars, collectors, armchair historians, and interested nautical enthusiasts to New Bedford from all over the country and abroad, to share interests in maritime history, nautical lore, and the many intriguing facets of whaling heritage worldwide.  This time around, our own Home Port is the focus which, backed by sumptuous new exhibitions at the Museum, we find timely and compelling.

Buy Tickets Here or register by phone at 508-997-0046 ext. 100

Please register by October 15th.
$50 for members
$65 for non-members
(includes lunch and admission to all museum galleries)
Optional Field-Trip, $25 additional.


All Saturday Symposium events, including registration, plenary sessions, coffee break, and lunch, are held in the Jacobs Family Gallery and Cook Memorial Theater, adjacent to the main entrance and Visitor Reception Desk.  The Sunday component is a boat trip on the Acushnet River.   Museum galleries are open daily to all registrants.  Please wear your name badge, which identifies you as a VIP.

This year’s theme is the interdependence and integration of various communities and commercial interests in the New Bedford Port District and their relation to the whaling industry that was the main economic focus of the region.


Saturday, October 19

9:00 AM   
Registration & Coffee

Welcome & Opening Remarks

“The entire business of the place is the whale fishery”: Specialization and management in the New Bedford Port District, 1789-1884.
Michael P. Dyer, Maritime Curator, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Whaleship Models: Research and Reconstruction.
Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr., ship model artist and historian; former Associate Curator of Maritime History at the New Bedford Whaling Museum

IntroducingThe Art of the Ship Model Exhibition.
Judith Navas Lund, Curator Emerita, New Bedford Whaling Museum  

12:30 PM   Lunch Break

Lighthouses of New Bedford
Arthur Motta , Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Beacons and Blubber: The Baker Family and four generations of whaling, light­houses, journals, watercolors, scrimshaw, and artifact collecting, 1825-1940.
Stuart M. Frank, Ph.D., Senior Curator Emeritus , New Bedford Whaling Museum

Franco Americans in the New Bedford Whale Fishery, 1790-1910.
Alfred H. Saulniers, Ph.D., Economist and Historian, New Bedford

Introducing the Harbor Views Exhibition
Stuart M. Frank 

Sunday, October 20

OPTIONAL FIELD-TRIP – hosted by Arthur Motta: a waterborne tour of New Bedford harbor (weather/seas permitting), with a sail past Palmer Island Light (1849), Butler Flats Light Station (1898), and Clark’s Point Light (1869). Morning departure at 10:30 a.m. aboard the harbor tour boat, Acushnet, from Fisherman’s Wharf, returning in time for lunch on your own on shore. Seating is limited.


Maritime curator Michael Dyer will open the session with an overview of local history titled “The entire business of the place is the whale fishery”: Specialization and management in the New Bedford Port District, 1789-1884.

Next up, Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr., one of America’s most celebrated ship modelers and a former curator at the Whaling Museum, will present “Whaleship Models: Research and Reconstruction,” describing the unique features of whaleship models and the challenges of building them, and will provide a systematic examination of their value as historical documents, sublime aesthetic byproducts of local seafaring, and relics that pay homage to a unique maritime heritage.

Mr. Ronnberg will be followed by Judith N. Lund, also a former curator of the Museum, to introduce the current exhibition “The Art of the Ship Model,” which she co-curated with J. Michael Wall.

Following a break for lunch, New Bedford historian and publicist Arthur Motta will speak about “Lighthouses of New Bedford” and their integration into the fabric of The Life and Times of the Whaling Capital, one of the nation’s greatest seaports. 

This will be expanded upon by Dr. Stuart M. Frank, Senior Curator Emeritus, on “Beacons and Blubber: The Amos Baker Family and four generations of whaling, lighthouses, journals, watercolors, scrimshaw, and artifact collecting,” a pictorial extravaganza that delves deep into museum collections to explore the unusual history of this exemplary family of lighthouse keepers and whaling captains. 

Capping the all-day plenary sessions will be the noted local historian Dr. Alfred Saulniers, addressing “Franco Americans in the New Bedford Whale Fishery, 1790-1910,” a little-known but crucial component community of participants in the city’s great Age of Sail. 

To close out the day, Dr. Frank will introduce another current exhibition, “Harbor Views,” which focuses on visions of the estuary, waterfronts, and waterborne traffic by some of the most proficient and expressive local artists, from William Bradford and Albert Van Beest to L.D. Eldred and Clifford Ashley.

The Whaling History Symposium is made possible in part by the Samuel D. Rusitzky Lecture Fund.

Twitter hashtag: #WhalingHistorySymp37