Yesterday I headed to the New Bedford Whaling Museum for the biggest day of work yet on the Scrimshaw project. I spent a good 5 hours in the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Reading Room and Archives, poring over ships logs, journals, navigational school notes, and even land deeds–some dating back to the late 18th century.
Some of this stuff hasn’t been incredibly well studied, and I was honored (and a bit concerned I’m not fancy enough to be looking through it) to be permitted to use it.
With a document and photo scanner application on my phone, I was able to get high-quality scans of some amazing stuff. This allowed me to move much more quickly, as I could scan pages and study them more closely later on.
It wasn’t just illustrations that interested me. I also scanned pages of several ships logs so that I can give viewers an idea of the day-to-day experience on a whale ship. Most of it was mundane (which is important), some of it was nothing short of incredible. Also, many of the logs included latitude and longitude points. Coupled with knowledge of who was on what boat, I can place an individual on a spot on the globe on a given date sometimes over 200 years ago.
Such a wispy, flowing hand can be very difficult to read. Most of what I’ve found is going to be saved for the film itself, but suffice it to say that mention of important moments in history were included in some of the logs.
The feeling of excitement for this project has officially moved into responsibility.
To cap off an already unprecedented day, a room of the museum (formerly the Sperm Whale Gallery) was dedicated to Dr. Roderick Turner. A pioneer in orthopedic surgery, Dr. Turner was a whaling-history fanatic and one of the biggest collectors of the work of Chester Gotauco who, along with his daughter Jade, will be a part of this film.
I was invited not only to attend, but also to film the dedication ceremony. I am excited that this will be exclusively available in my film.
I’m feeling increasingly honored to be creating this film, and even more excited to share it with everyone.
If you’re getting excited for it, too, please consider becoming a patron of my work at on Patreon
Interviews will be mostly filmed throughout October, 2018, so stay tuned for a lot more updates!
2 thoughts on “Yesterday Was a Big Day for Scrimshaw”
I’ve been unable to work in the reading room this year because of Covid and transportation issues. I agree with your post, from what I’ve found in my own specialization these archives are very important and underutilized. I envy your accomplishments and I hope your scrimshaw project is going well.
It’s been so hard to conduct any research this year. The Library of Congress and some local libraries with decent digitized collections have been great. And I was able to get into one historical society. But beyond that I have had to revisit everything I’m up to because of Covid.
This project has really taken on a life of its own. I see some of the images aren’t showing up so I’ll have to sort that out. At this point I’ve gotta start piecing things together but there’s a lot of exciting material. Thanks for your comment.
What is your specialization?