“Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers” is an exploration of America’s historic and contemporary relationship with whales and whaling. The exhibition opened after the 38th Voyage of the 1841 whaleship and National Historic Landmark Charles W. Morgan, the flagship and signature vessel of Mystic Seaport Museum, 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, “Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers” pushes 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.
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 are more than 100 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 are on public display for the first time.
The Museum partnered 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 that are more fully explored in the exhibit.
Touch-activated “Dive Deeper” information stations, featuring videos, timelines, digital maps, and games, allow visitors to further explore the study of whales and the whaling industry. Visitors can also search a database for crew members that sailed aboard the 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 tells the universal, geographically-rich stories of the Morgan and presents compelling contemporary research. Video programs 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.
“Most people are familiar with whaling through the lens of popular culture or reading Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick,” said Mystic Seaport Museum President Steve White. “’Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers’ pushes past the common perception and the mechanics of whaling to show the richer and deeper stories of the peoples, places, ships, and whales that impacted and were impacted by the industry.”
The 38th Voyagers
During the Charles W. Morgan‘s historic 38th Voyage in 2014, 85 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 are on display in “Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers.”