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The Wendell Building houses the Museum’s dramatic collection of figureheads and ships’ carvings. The most romantic and mysterious of all artifacts from the Age of Sail, these figureheads, billetheads, and catheads also demonstrate the extraordinary skill of their craftsmen.
In ancient times, figureheads frequently depicted supernatural beasts and deities adopted from popular mythology. This tradition persisted into the 19th century, when patriotic figures and national heroes were also introduced. Modern vessels, for the most part, carry little if any decorative carving, as hull design and traditions have changed.