Peter Foulger Gallery,
April 26–November 10, 2013
Walk down Main Street on a busy August afternoon, and you'll likely overhear someone telling a story about Nantucket's history—a tale of the day a sea serpent visited the island, or how Main Street came to be paved with cobblestones. This summer, the Nantucket Historical Association will explore some of the tales—those rooted in documented history and those of fantasy—that are integral to how the island community understands its history and presents Nantucket to the world. Nantucket Legends: Foggy Facts and Fictions will take a close look at some of Nantucket's colorful stories, including the first Nantucket tea party, R. H. Macy's red star tattoo, Tony Sarg's sea serpent hoax, and the origin of roof walks on Nantucket houses, Folger's Coffee, and Nantucket Reds. Visitors to the exhibit will learn that it isn't always possible to distinguish fact from fiction, but that stories told about the events, places, and people of Nantucket change over time to reflect the identity and interests of the storyteller.
Spring 2012 through Spring 2013
Nantucket In The Civil War
In the wake of the whaling industry's collapse, Nantucketers responded with heroic dedication to the call for volunteers to support the Union in the Civil War.
Even in the face of pacifist island traditions, nearly 400 Nantucket men enlisted in defense of the Union forces, with 73 ultimately giving their lives in the war. Dozens of repurposed whaling vessels, including the Nantucket whaleship Potomac, were put into service in the Stone Fleet, sunk by Union forces in Savannah and Charleston harbors to create blockades of Confederate vessels. Other whaleships were destroyed by Confederate raiders near the end of the war.
After war was declared in 1861, Nantucket established a militia known as the Island Guard, associated with the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Recruits to the "Bloody 20th"—or "Harvard Regiment"—were led by the charismatic George Nelson Macy, whose home was at 123 Main Street. Macy and his fellow islanders would see action at many of the pivotal engagements of the war, from Fredericksburg to Gettysburg. As Brevet Major General, Macy would also attain the highest rank of any Nantucketer.
After the conflict, Nantucket veterans from the 20th Mass., 45th Mass., and other regiments, proudly served in the Thomas M. Gardner Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, holding annual memorial celebrations of their contributions to the defense of the Union.
Spring 2011 through Fall 2012
Major nineteenth-century genre painter, portraitist, and chronicler of American life, Eastman Johnson first visited Nantucket in 1869, and soon took up seasonal residence on island, purchasing a home and artist studio on North Road (now Cliff Road) in the area known as The Cliff—on the North Shore facing Nantucket Sound. The artist's island sojourns would inspire some of his most enduring works, including his masterpiece, The Cranberry Harvest, Island of
With the completion of The Cranberry Harvest, the artist turned his attention to portraiture, taking advantage of the community of grizzled veterans of the sea who haunted Nantucket in the twilight of the nineteenth century. Living on The Cliff surrounded by neighbors who included retired mariners, civic officials, and practicing artists, Johnson used many of his new island acquaintances as the subjects of his paintings.
During the post-whaling era of the 1870s–90s, other prominent American artists were drawn to Nantucket for its antiquated charm and picturesque vistas. Major contemporaries of Johnson's such as George Inness and William Trost Richards visited the island— joining the ranks of Nantucket-descended talents such as W. Ferdinand Macy, as well as Johnson's friend and neighbor John Alexander MacDougall Jr.—in portraying the island's lush natural settings, interesting characters, and alluring seascapes and landscapes.
Summer 2011 through Fall 2012
Inspired by Nantucket's early museums, especially the original "Fair Street Rooms," the Nantucket’s Cabinet of Curiosities: A to Z exhibition showcases iconic curios, oddities, and other island treasures from the NHA collections, presenting an encapsulated "A to Z" overview of Nantucket history.
Such curios as the model of the Nantucket Camels; the bell from the railroad engine Dionis; the tiller of the whaleship Lima; the famous wax doll of Louis XVII, Dauphin of France, brought back by a Nantucket captain; and many more items will be taken from storage and placed on display for the first time in years.
Another exciting component of the exhibition are movies from old Nantucket, including footage from the 1930s to 1950s playing on an antique television in a 1950s living room setting. Visitors will have a chance to enter Josiah Freeman's Photo Studio and have their portrait taken, to smell spermaceti and ambergris, to color a copy of the Tony Sarg Alphabet Book with their children and families; to send a Nantucket postcard to friends; and, most enjoyable, to revisit the model of the Nantucket Railroad first displayed in 2008.
Spring 2010 through Winter 2011
A Passion for People showcases photographer Beverly Hall’s outstanding eye for portraiture through four decades of Nantucket history. The retrospective opens a window into the remarkable changes that have occurred on Nantucket in the last four decades, and the evolution and resilience of the individuals and families who have lived through those times. To present the full scope of Hall’s work, the exhibition features several hundred images on multiple presentation screens in addition to traditionally framed images. Organized by categories, the screens allow visitors to enjoy individual topics, such as “Characters,” presenting her remarkable images of Madaket Millie and Mr. Rogers, or “Artists,” highlighting the gallery scene on South Wharf in the 1970s and beyond. Hall’s work captures an important chapter in Nantucket’s postwar history, a time which it is increasingly important to record and showcase as part of Nantucket’s modern history. The exhibition was accompanied by a Brown Bag lecture by Beverly Hall; and a series of gallery talks by the artist in 2010.
Visit www.beverlyhallphotography.net to see Beverly's photos and read about her philosophy.
The Nantucket Historical Association proclaimed 2010 "The Year of the Nantucket Woman" and offered many related exhibits and programs. The year's major exhibition, “Sometimes think of me”: Notable Nantucket Women through the Centuries, focused on the colorful lives of thirty two outstanding women across four centuries of Nantucket history and was the NHA’s first large-scale exhibition exploring the history of the island’s remarkable women.
Needlework artist Susan Boardman illustrated the women's stories in her “embroidered narratives,” amazingly detailed, hand-stitched pictorials that tell a story about each woman. Boardman's textile narratives are rooted in Nantucket's maritime traditions, where school girls captured daily life in their stitched samplers and where whalers added poetry and illustrations to their standard whaling log entries of weather conditions, location and number of whales killed.
Boardman's work has grown to encompass a history-in-brief of the women of Nantucket from the earliest Native American period to contemporary times. Each narrative was displayed in lively detail using the NHA’s rich collections of artifacts, logbooks, and manuscript material.
In Sometimes Think of me the island's fascinating and inspiring subjects included: the Wampanoag maiden Wonoma; whaling wife and journal keeper Eliza Brock; whaling wife and journal illustrator Susan Veeder; scientist Maria Mitchell; abolitionist Eunice Ross; as well as many contemporary Nantucket women.
Boardman's work covers the lives of some of the most exemplary Nantucket women, whose spirit of independence, resourcefulness, and ambition, often in the face of their husbands’ long absences at sea, have made them much admired in American history. Astronomer Maria Mitchell said of her island sisters, “There is no town in New England where the whole body of women is so well-educated.”
A major feature of the exhibition is an accompanying book-length catalog, written by island historian and NHA Research Fellow Betsy Tyler. The catalog fills a major gap in Nantucket literature as an accessible, thoroughly-researched history of a broad range of outstanding island women, past and present.
Other features of the exhibition and related programming included a video production highlighting selected passages from the journals, logs, and letters of the women featured in the exhibition; a lecture by Betsy Tyler presenting the history of the women in the show (summer); and the Friends of the NHA lecture featuring Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife.
Susan Boardman's embroidered narratives can be viewed in exquisite detail on her website at www.susanboardman.com.
Visions of Her: Portrait Photography by Nantucket Youth
Visions of Her: Portrait Photography by Nantucket Youth featured modern portraits of Nantucket women captured by teens from the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club and Nantucket High School. The photographs showcase the essence of women the young photographers admire, as well as the island itself. Bonus film interviews offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creative spirit of the project.
Visit the digital exhibit.
The NHA offers this fresh, contemporary mix as part of its ”Year of the Nantucket Woman” offerings, which include the two seasonal exhibitions: A Passion for People: 40 Years of Nantucket Portrait Photography by Beverly Hall and “Sometimes think of me”: Notable Nantucket Women through the Centuries.
The Iñupiat Eskimos have lived and hunted in the Arctic region of Alaska for 5,000 years. Central to their lifestyle and survival is the bowhead whale, a primary source not only of food, building materials, and barter goods, but also of art, legends, and cultural identity. The Iñupiat communities continue to pursue the bowhead in their annual hunt. They conduct the whale hunt under the strict supervision of federal and state agencies, and may strike between 60–80 whales in their annual season. The International Whaling Commission has allotted the Iñupiat a block quota of 255 bowhead whales from 2008–2012. The average annual number of whales landed has been forty-one over the past ten years.
The exhibition features the photography of Bill Hess, who documented the bowhead hunt in his book Gift of the Whale: The Iñupiat Bowhead Hunt, A Sacred Tradition. With patience and openness, Hess earned the trust of the Iñupiat community, and was invited to document the hunt. His photographs share a startling and deeply moving portrait of a community fully engaged in the pursuit of the bowhead whale. The exhibition will provide visitors with a glimpse into a contemporary society that owes its survival to the hunting of whales, not unlike the island of Nantucket at the height of the Golden Age of whaling.
The exhibition will include: Photographs by Bill Hess; the documentary film The Eskimo and The Whale; an Eskimo kayak and Arctic carvings in ivory from the NHA collections; the building of a traditional Umiak by wooden boatbuilder Corey Freedman; Iñupiat music; speakers/presenters Bill Hess, Robert Hellman, Bill Tramposch, Ben Simons, and an Iñupiat whaling captain; possible video exchange with Barrow, Alaska and Nantucket school children.
Harbor & Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710-1850
Organized by Winterthur Museum & Country Estate
In 2009, the Nantucket Historical Association will host its first major traveling exhibition, Harbor & Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710-1850, organized by Winterthur Museum & Country Estate. Harbor & Home will be a landmark in the institution’s history. The Winterthur exhibition focuses on a largely unstudied region of New England furniture—the area falling between Boston and Providence, which includes the unique seafaring communities of the Cape and Islands. Nantucket furniture, influenced by the restraint and elegant craftsmanship of the island’s Quaker community, is extremely rare, and has never been gathered together in one setting, nor studied with the scholarly intensity that Winterthur curator Brock Jobe and his colleagues have dedicated to produce the exhibition and the accompanying catalog. Remarkably, of the seventy-plus artifacts included in Winterthur’s exhibition, thirteen are from the collection of the Nantucket Historical Association—the greatest number of any institution after Winterthur. This prominence indicates the strength of the NHA collection, created in large part with the help of the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association, our main collector’s group.
The NHA pieces featured in Harbor & Home will include the astronomical tall-case clock made by island genius Walter Folger Jr., recently voted one of the top 100 clocks in America; examples of the classic Nantucket Windsor chair; an outstanding inlaid candlestand by Heman Ellis; a cylinder-fall inlaid desk signed by Ellis; and a 4-slat ladderback Quaker Monthly Meeting side chair; to mention a few examples.
Harbor & Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710-1850
was organized by
Winterthur Museum & Country Estate
Major support for Harbor & Home provided by:
Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation
Additional support is provided by Mr. and Mrs. James R. Alexander, Mr. and Mrs Max N. Berry, Mrs. Georgina M. Bissell, Mr. Paul T. Clark, DBS Northeast Auctions, James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes, The Hohmann Foundation, Mrs. Greta B. Layton, The Honorable and Mrs. Michael T. Paul, John and Margaret Ruttenberg, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Ryder, Joseph E. and Norma G. Saul Foundation, Skinner Auctioneers & Appraisers, Gary R. Sullivan Antiques Inc., Mr. William W. Upton, Washington Decorative Arts Forum, Beth and Stanley Weiss, Mr. Kemble Widmer, Mr. and Mrs William F. Wiseman, and Anonymous.
The exhibition at the Nantucket Historical Association is made possible with support from Wilmington Trust FSB Massachusetts, Mr. and Mrs. Amos B. Hostetter Jr., Mr. & Mrs Hampton S. Lynch Jr., and Mr. and Mrs. Jay M. Wilson, and Anonymous.
Camera's Coast: Historic Images of Ship & Shore in New England
This exhibition is a sampler of images from Historic New England's extensive collection of historic photographs documenting New England's rich maritime history, including Nantucket. The exhibition will be on display through November 8 and includes photographs of many traditional occupations -- from fishing, shipbuilding, and deep-water voyaging. Subjects depicted include square-riggers, coasting schooners, fishing vessels and fishing ports, small boats and large yachts, summer hotels and fishermen's shacks, fishermen, seaweed gatherers, and saltmarsh haymakers.
Curated by noted author and maritime historian William H. Bunting, The Camera's Coast illustrates life along the New England coast in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Pioneering photographers represented in the exhibition include Nathaniel L. Stebbins, Henry G. Peabody, Baldwin Coolidge, and Emma L. Coleman.
Historic New England (originally the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities) is the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the nation; the organization shares the region's history through vast collections, publications, public programs, museum properties, archives, and family stories that document more than 400 years of life in New England.
Gay Head Light
9 January 1909
White Island Light
Landmarks of Nantucket!
What favorite Nantucket places would you miss if they suddenly vanished overnight?
We asked seventh-grade students at the Cyrus Peirce Middle School this question and worked with twenty-five of them after school this spring to record their own special places. Each student received a camera to capture images of Nantucket landmarks, worked with NHA and CPS staff, as well as professional-island photographers, and created a student-curated exhibition which will be on display at the Whaling Museum from May 3 to August 31.
Landmarks of Nantucket! is a collaboration involving the Nantucket Historical Association and the Nantucket Public Schools, specifically the Cyrus Peirce Middle School. Funding was provided by the Nantucket Golf Club Foundation.
Keeping Time in Sag Harbor: Photographs by Stephen Longmire
In the 1840s, Nantucket and Sag Harbor vied for the honor of hosting New England’s second-largest whaling fleet — trailing New Bedford, a latecomer to the fishery. Sag Harbor sailors went to school aboard Nantucket whaleships soon after the American Revolution, learning the business of deep-sea whaling. This was only fair, since Nantucket had taken some lessons in shore whaling from Long Island Puritans a century earlier, in the late 1600s.
The ports share common histories, up to the present. Sag Harbor and Nantucket were boomtowns in the first half of the nineteenth century, pursuing a global trade in whale oil. Both island economies went belly up in the 1850s, once petroleum was discovered in Pennsylvania. Both turned to summer tourism, preserving the architectural record of their early affluence, despite devastating fires. Sag Harbor became a factory town; for a century, until 1981, it manufactured watchcases. During the nation’s recent housing boom, both resorts faced unprecedented development, stressing their landmark preservation laws. The business of economic speculation came home at last, and historic buildings were the chief commodity.
The photographs and texts in this exhibition are drawn from Stephen Longmire’s book Keeping Time in Sag Harbor, which marked the 300th anniversary of the New York port in 2007.
American presidents have been concerned in the affairs of Nantucket island from the days of the foundation of the nation. The collections of the Nantucket Historical Association hold documents signed by nearly every president from Washington to Roosevelt. In honor of election year, the NHA will present an exhibition highlighting some of the more remarkable presidentially signed documents in the collection. Some of the documents of note include: appointment of Inspector of the Revenue for the Ports of Nantucket and Sherburne signed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; ships papers signed by James Madison, John Tyler, James Polk, James Buchanan, and others; Abraham Lincoln’s appointment of George Hussey Tracey as first lieutenant in the Fifteenth Infantry Regiment; a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow; and a letter from Franklin Delano Roosevelt regarding the naming of a torpedo boat destroyer in honor of Nantucketer Reuben Chase. William III.
'Sconset 02564: A Celebration of the Patchwork Village
May 23 – November 11, 2008
The exhibition features the history, architecture, personalities, and “character” of this unique village at the eastern end of Nantucket, often described as the most charming in America, following its evolution from a fishing village to a world-renowned summer resort.
Moby-Dick: Intaglio Prints by Janet Ball McGlinn
We are please to announce the opening of an exhibition of the Moby Dick Series of prints by Nantucket artist Janet (Ball) McGlinn (1915–1988). McGlinn was one of the most talented post-war artists working on Nantucket. She founded the Nantucket Printmakers with Schuyler Bradt in 1969 and taught printmaking, especially the technique of collograph, at the Artists Association of Nantucket when the workshop existed in the winter inside the blanketed lower gallery of the Kenneth Taylor Galleries. A Philadelphia native, McGlinn attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Art Students League in New York City. McGlinn’s stunning print series vividly highlight key scenes and characters from Moby-Dick, including the famous whale jawbone bar at the Spouter Inn, Moby Dick himself, Queequeg, Ahab, a cutting-in scene, and a lovely image of Ishmael the sole survivor at the end of the epic tale.
In Search of Giant Squid!
A Traveling Exhibition of the Smithsonian Institution
In February 2008, the NHA will host its first traveling exhibition: In Search of Giant Squid. The giant squid, known as Architeuthis, is one of the ocean’s most elusive, mysterious, and mythologized creatures. It grew to fame as the sperm whale’s greatest rival―and its favorite meal. The NHA will present a Giant Squid Festival on Saturday March 8, 2008, featuring the world’s most renowned squid expert, Dr. Clyde Roper, as well as multiple family and children’s activities. The exhibition is supported, in part, by the Egan Maritime Foundation and Novation Media.
In Search of Giant Squid was developed by the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in partnership with the Discovery Channel. This exhibition is made possible by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Paintings of Rebecca Coffin
Elizabeth Rebecca Coffin (1850−1930) was born of Nantucket Quaker parentage in Brooklyn, New York. She studied at Vassar College, The Hague Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Students League in New York, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, in addition to traveling extensively in Europe and California. She was a pupil of Thomas Eakins, whose striking portrait of the artist is on display here. Beginning in the 1880s, Coffin began to summer regularly on Nantucket, painting brilliant genre scenes and portraits that capture the quaint and fading way of life of post-whaling Nantucket. After moving to Nantucket permanently in 1900, her artistic output declined, and she began to devote her energies to reviving instruction in handicrafts at the Coffin School. An eighth-generation descendant of original Nantucket settlers Tristram and Dionis Coffin, the artist returned to the island of her ancestors, leaving a legacy of outstanding paintings and devoted public service.
Landmarks of Nantucket!
Over thirty Nantucket sixth, seventh and eighth graders participated in the NHA’s first student-curated photographic exhibition. Landmarks of Nantucket! showcases what the students consider to be their cherished Nantucket landmarks. This collaborative exhibition was organized by the NHA, Nantucket Preservation Trust and Sustainable Nantucket.
Click here to visit the digital exhibition
The Nantucket Art Colony, 1920 – 1945
Featured the work of the group of painters and teachers who came to Nantucket and formed the “paradise and dream come true” for artists that became the Nantucket Art Colony. They worked from artists’ studios and gallery spaces created from the relics of Nantucket’s long-vanished whaling past – the cluster of shacks, shanties, boathouses, and old buildings that lay soaking in the sea air along Nantucket’s waterfront.
A selection of new accessions donated to the NHA permanent collection, many of which were received during the 2006 season. Items range from an elegant mahogany tilt-top Nantucket candlestand attributed to Heman Ellis (1770-1816), to four large original watercolor whale murals painted by local artist C. Robert Perrin, to a surfboard from the island’s 1960s hippie era.
The Friends of The Nantucket Historical Association, a nonprofit group of collectors founded in 1986 to help purchase and preserve Nantucket art, artifacts, and manuscripts, have also donated many remarkable items to the NHA collections over the past fifteen years.
Richard C. Maloney was a teacher who retired to Nantucket in 1970, and began creating a series of editorial cartoons that appeared in the Inquirer and Mirror under the signature “Atropos” (one of the three sister Fates in Greek mythology). His cartoons provided satirical social commentary on Nantucket’s burgeoning development issues, from housing, to automobiles, to new buildings, to tourism. Many of his cartoons still have a strong resonance today, with the island still facing the difficulties that were beginning to appear in the early 1970s. The collection of original Maloney drawings and clippings included in the exhibition was generously donated by the artist’s granddaughter Catherine Maloney.
Andrea Doria: 50th Anniversary
Commemorating the collision of the Italian luxury liner and the Swedish ship Stockholm, due south of Nantucket, the exhibition included articles from the disaster scene, including a life vest and suitcase. Artifacts from the Gifford family, Nantucket residents who were traveling aboard the Andrea Doria when the collision occurred, were also displayed.
Boardman's Embroidered Narratives of
Notable Nantucket Women
The Nantucket Historical Association has been proud to host two exhibitions of artwork by Susan Boardman. The first was on display June-October 2002, and the second was displayed June-December 2006, both in the Whitney Gallery of the NHA Research Library, 7 Fair Street.
of the Times: Nantucket Signs
Peter Foulger Gallery in the Whaling Museum
An exhibition of nearly one hundred Nantucket business signs representing an encapsulated history of life on Nantucket, from the late nineteenth up to the late twentieth century, includes some of the most recognizable and fondly remembered establishments: The old Downyflake, the North Shore Restaurant, Andy's Diner, the Gordon Folger Hotel, Tavern on the Moors, Straight Wharf Theatre, Northeast Airlines, and numerous others. The collection was a gift from Mrs. Florence E. Clifford and her children-Debbi Deeley Culbertson, Dusty Deeley Ramos, and J. Drew Deeley.
"The nostalgia evoked by 125 years of signage, viewed together in one location, will certainly touch many who recall these great signs and the old businesses they represent," said Niles Parker, Interim Executive Director and Robyn and John Davis Curator. "We are very grateful to Mrs. Clifford and her family for this wonderful contribution to the preservation of Nantucket history."