Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers

Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers

“Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers,” which opens June 20, 2015, in the Museum’s Stillman Building, is a new exploration of America’s historic and contemporary relationship with whales and whaling. The exhibition has been timed to follow the unprecedented 38th Voyage of the 1841 whaleship and National Historic Landmark Charles W. Morgan, the flagship and signature vessel of Mystic Seaport, which sits at its berth within sight of the gallery entrance.

Using collections artifacts and artwork alongside compelling audio-visual elements, immersive displays, and thought-provoking interpretation, the exhibit will push past the mechanics of whaling to show the richer and deeper stories of the peoples, places, ships, and whales that impacted and were impacted by whaling since the Morgan’s construction in 1841.

The CHARLES W. MORGAN outward bound, 1908 (Mystic Seaport/Edouard Stackpole Collection 2009.22.15)

The Charles W. Morgan outward bound, 1908. (Mystic Seaport/Edouard Stackpole Collection 2009.22.15)

In the words of guest curator Anne Witty, “The stories in this exhibit braid together people, whales, history, and culture. Here are tales of work and wonder, wealth and poverty, nature and society. Objects of work, struggle, and leisure. Images of violence and beauty, of forgotten people and lifeways that are strange to us today.”

On display will be more than 300 whaling-related artifacts, images, and documents, including logbooks, photographs, scrimshaw, ship models, and souvenirs, as well as moving images, oral histories, and sound recordings. Some of the artifacts and images have only recently been added to the collection and will be on public display for the first time.

Interactive Elements

The Museum is working with Northern Light Productions to create original multimedia elements to help bridge the gap between the whalers’ world and our own. A short film presents a content-rich, visually stunning introduction to the exhibit topic and themes, using high-definition footage shot during the 38th Voyage along with archival whaling footage and brief shots of people, artifacts, and stories to be explored more fully in the exhibit.

Touch-activated “Dive Deeper” information stations, featuring videos, timelines, digital maps, and games, will allow visitors to further explore the study of whales and the whaling industry. Visitors will also be able to search a database for crew members that sailed aboard the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan and learn more about the vessel’s recent restoration.

To convey the global stories of whales, whaling, and whale research, a large three-dimensional projection globe showing all the world’s oceans will tell the universal, geographically-rich stories of the Morgan and present compelling contemporary research. Video programs will enable visitors to sail back to 1841 and follow the journey the Morgan took on her first whaling voyage, explore diversity aboard whaleships, and see how tracking whales has evolved over the past 200 years.

The 38th Voyagers

38th Voyager Lesley Walker documenting her experience aboard the CHARLES W. MORGAN.

38th Voyager Lesley Walker documenting her experience aboard the Charles W. Morgan

During the Morgan‘s historic 38th Voyage in 2014, more than 80 individuals from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds sailed aboard the ship and participated in an unprecedented public-history project. This select group, which included artists, historians, scientists, journalists, teachers, musicians, scholars, and whaling descendants, used their own perspectives and talents to document and filter their experience. Some of these creative products will also be on display in “Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers.”