The largest museum in the world focusing on the history of whaling and whales is New Bedford Whaling Museum. New Bedford area whaling families founded the museum 110 years ago.
The 35’ skeleton of a young humpback whale and 5 whole whale skeletons are special attractions. Its exhibits include a fully rigged 89-foot half scale replica of the whaling bark Lagoda that may be boarded. It is the largest whale ship model in the world. A collection of 2,500 logbooks recorded accounts of whaling voyages. The 22-minute orientation film, ‘The City That Lit the World’ plays continuously in the museum theater.
The exhibit of 3,000 pieces of scrimshaw and shipboard art is thought to be the largest in the world. Few of us have seen real scrimshaw, as whalers who created it predate our lives. Scrimshaw was fashioned from marine mammal byproducts, and whalebone most prevalent. They were etched by hand with pictures or lettering.
The museum also has a large fine art collection of works by American artists of the New Bedford area flourishing by wealth from the whaling trade. Artists include Albert Bierstadt, William Bradford, and Albert Pinkham Ryder. Museum artwork includes glass, furniture and other decorated arts.
About a block from New Bedford Whaling Museum is the visitor center for New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park at 33 William Street. This 13-block district has preserved buildings, cobblestone streets with period lighting dating back to the 19th century within 34-acres. Guided tours and self-guided walking tour maps are available at the visitor center.
New Bedford Whaling Museum
18 Johnny Cake Hill
New Bedford, MA
Hours of operation
November to March
Tuesday - Saturday 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM. - 4:00 PM
April through October
Daily 9:00 AM. - 5:00 PM. (Monday-Sunday) Every second Thursday of the month open until 8:00 PM.
Adult - $14
Senior - $12
Student (19+)- $9
Children - $6
Under 5 free
New Bedford is a coastal seaport city of 95,072 population at 53’elevation on Buzzards Bay. Called ‘The Whaling City’ it was the world’s most successful whaling port during the early and mid 19th century. Currently it is America’s #1 commercial fishing port with one fifth of the cities income coming from the fishing and allied industries. It is 58 miles south of Boston and 32 miles east of Providence NJ.
Buzzards Bay is 28 miles long by 8 miles wide, popular for fishing, boating, and tourism. Early colonists named the bay after seeing a large bird near its shores, actually an osprey breed.
New Bedford Whaling Museum is a 6 hours drive of 417 miles from Rochester NY. Drive I-90 Thruway east to Worcester, route 146 to Providence NJ and US 195 to New Bedford. Follow signs to New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Here is a visitor’s impression of their museum visit.
“I’ve been to a number of maritime museums and emphatically endorse this as one of the best.”