The Scrimshaw Collection

Exhibition opened May 13th, 2012

Installed in the Museum mid-May, this is a sumptuous “permanent” exhibition of the best, most representative, and most compelling curiosities of our vast scrimshaw holdings — a generous selection drawn from the world’s largest and greatest collection. The exhibition is the partial result of 25+ years of cataloging and research.

The exhibition presents the scrimshaw itself in all its unique and occupationally rooted glory. Many of the pieces are on exhibit for the first time; many others have not been on public display for decades. The exhibition also shows some of the pictorial sources of the whalers’ work; it traces such topical themes as symbolic patriotic figures, American naval prowess, portraiture, fashion plates, ethnic diversity, the Napoleonic mystique, and the whale hunt itself; it features works by English, Scottish, Azorean, Cape Verdean, African-American, Continental European, Eskimo, Pacific Islander, and Japanese practitioners; and it illustrates some of the tools and mainstream methods of engraving ivory and bone, and constructing “built” scrimshaw at sea.