The Wider World and Scrimshaw Hybrid Event | New Bedford Whaling Museum

Date / time: 28 March, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm


The New Bedford Whaling Museum has organized The Wider World and Scrimshaw, a day-long symposium offered in-person or online on Tuesday, March 28, from 10:00-5:00 pm EST. Renowned and emerging scholars will explore the global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim that were influenced by, sat in conversation with, and had an influence on “Yankee” whaling scrimshaw. The day celebrates international maritime material culture and dives deep into the Whaling Museum’s Indigenous collections from Oceania, the Pacific Northwest, and Global Arctic. The Museum’s unparalleled collection of scrimshaw is the largest in the world, and has been widely studied and published. In contrast, the Pacific Rim collections are less well understood. Generously supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, this symposium is an opportunity to reframe the Museum’s approach to these two collection areas through a global lens, and consider what responsibilities museums carry to the communities and histories represented in their collections.

Understanding that material culture serves as a rich primary source of documentation of colonial encounter, adaptation, and influence in various directions, symposium participants will consider rich examples of material culture from the Pacific Rim and whaling voyages and query what they might teach us about the relationships between communities throughout the region, nineteenth-century whalers, and histories of colonial maritime exploration during the nineteenth century and beyond. Among other topics, speakers will consider Native Alaskan carving traditions, including Iñupiat and Yup’ik makers, Native Hawaiian Lei niho palaoa, the place of gender and meaning of materials across different cultures, Fijian tabua, Māori material culture, and Pilipinx archives and the circulation and replication of imperialist imagery, and will share models for Indigenous-led engagement with museum collections. The symposium aims to open a dialogue about the colonial legacies that inform collections like this, and asks: How can we better understand and interpret these collections from a global perspective, and what can such engagements offer – in the galleries and beyond, as Museums steward objects from around the world?

Panelists include:

  • Alejandro T. Acierto, Assistant Professor, School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, Arizona State University
  • Maggie Cao, David G. Frey Associate Professor of Art History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Michael R. Harrison, Chief Curator and Obed Macy Research Chair, Nantucket Historical Association
  • Igor Krupnik, Cultural Anthropologist and Curator of Arctic and Northern Ethnology Collections, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institutions
  • Emily Jean Leischner, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia
  • Courtney M. Leonard, Assistant Professor of Art and Art History, St. Olaf College
  • Steven Loring, Archaeologist (Arctic Studies Center), National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
  • Bart Pushaw, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Copenhagen
  • Sienna Weldon, MA Candidate, Art History, University of California, Davis
  • Jennifer J. Wagelie, Academic Liaison, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, University of California, Davis
  • Marina Wells, PhD Candidate, American and New England Studies, Boston University
  • Naomi Slipp, Chief Curator, and Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History, New Bedford Whaling Museum

For additional information or to register, visit:

Image: Wiki CommonsCC 2.0 Generic license