Logo   New Bedford Whaling Museum
Whaling was an essential New England industry in the 1800s. Learn all about it here...




Atop Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the historic waterfront district (map), the New Bedford Whaling Museum is a complex of several buildings which fill the block between William and Union streets. The museum is dedicated to the history of New Bedford, with particular emphasis on the story of whaling in the age of sail.

As you enter you'll see the stupefying full-size whale skeletons hanging in the modern three-storey-high main hall. Stairways and platforms allow you to inspect these gigantic specimens pretty well.

Galleries of old photographs and drawings explaining the whaling industry, and other rooms in the museum hold collections of whaling lore: cooperage and chandlery; records of the countinghouse, brokerage, banking, and insurance; and articles of glass, china, and pewter manufactured in the New Bedford area, or owned by leading citizens.

Don't miss the largest ship model in the world: a replica of the bark Lagoda made to exactly one half the ship's original size. Rigging, tryworks, whaleboats, and other equipment are all in place, and you can walk about the model at will. The family who owned and operated the Lagoda donated the model, and the building to house it, to the museum.

  Awashonks Figurehead, New Bedford MA
  Ship's figurehead.

Perhaps the most beautiful exhibit besides the Lagoda is the scrimshaw, the delicate, intricate articles of carved whalebone and tooth which the whalesmen/scrimshander made to while away the long hours at sea. The artistry displayed is almost breathtaking, and the ingenuity revealing of quick and sensitive minds.

When you're done at the Whaling Museum, cross the street to the Seamen's Bethel (chapel), a 19th-century sailors' refuge still in excellent condition.

More about whales? Head for the Nantucket Whaling Museum on Nantucket island, and Mystic Seaport on the Connecticut shoreline.

—by Tom Brosnahan

Nantucket Whaling Museum

Mystic Seaport

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About New Bedford

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Paris Girls Secret Society, the new novel by Tom Brosnahan


New Bedford Whaling Museum, MA

Above, whale fluke sculpture.

Below, whale skeleton.


Whale Skeleton, New Bedford MA



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