Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fellowships Awarded For Research at Museum

IN A RECENT MEETING OF THE NEW ENGLAND REGIONAL FELLOWSHIP CONSORTIUM, a collaboration of 18 major cultural agencies, the consortium awarded 12 fellowships from a pool of 90 applicants for 2011–2012. Each grant will provide a stipend of $5,000 for a minimum of eight weeks of research at participating institutions. Grants are designed to encourage projects that draw on the resources of several agencies. Each award will be for research at a minimum of three different member institutions. Fellows must work at each of them for at least two weeks. In ten years the Consortium has handed out over 100 fellowships totaling more than $500,000. The initial funding came from a $150,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation and is supported annually by dues from the participating institutions.

Once again the G.W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport will be hosting 2 of the 12 Fellows this year. One, Hari Vishwanadha from Thousand Oaks, California, was a participant in last summer’s Munson Institute that was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Hari spent six weeks combing through our collections and along with his planned visits to other institutions in the consortium, will spend two weeks concentrating on logbooks, letters and business papers relating to his topic “Passages to India”.

The other Fellow, Hannah Farber from the University of California at Berkeley, will be working on completing her dissertation for her Ph.D. This dissertation project (expected completion in spring 2014) explores the ways in which the growth of the American maritime insurance industry shaped international relations, domestic politics, and the cultures of commerce and finance between the American Revolution and the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Our collections in both areas are quite rich and will easily support the two weeks’ worth of work each Fellow will be completing here.

Paul J. O'Pecko

Friday, March 18, 2011

Literary Scrimshaw

The Museum has a wonderful piece of scrimshaw entitled "The Sailor Boy." (Accession number 1974.691) The illustration appears on a large, nine-inch sperm whale and is very nicely done. Richard Malley, who was the Assistant Registrar at Mystic Seaport when he wrote about the Museum's scrimshaw collection in his 1983 book Graven by the Fishermen Themselves, states, "Though the scrimshander's skill is of the highest order, the artist did not concoct the scene on his own." Indeed, as so many other sailors did, this particular jack tar copied a scene from a published source that would have been well known at the time. In the accompanying image, the scrimshaw piece appears on the left, and the published source on the right. The published scene was used as the frontispiece for Shipwrecks and Disasters at Sea by Charles Ellms, first published in 1836. The verse that appears below the boy as he ascends the ratlines reads "Though the strained mast quivers as a reed, And the rent canvas fluttering strew the gale, Still I must on...Byron." A poignant look at the perils of a young man at sea as seen through the eyes of both a poet and a scrimshander. It is a prized piece at Mystic Seaport.

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