By Rita J. Egan
Staff members of the The Whaling Museum & Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor have been behind closed doors since early September working on a number of exciting new projects. On Oct. 2, the doors will open once again as the museum hosts their annual SeaFaire celebration and launches the museum’s brand new permanent exhibit, Thar She Blows!
Celebrating Long Island’s maritime heritage, SeaFaire features craftspeople demonstrating felting and needle punching, rug hooking, calligraphy, weaving, and there will be a silversmith and jewelry maker on hand, too. Visitors will also be able to participate in carving scrimshaw, building a model sailboat and creating a candle of their very own, according to Judy Palumbo, community relations and development manager.
At last year’s event, Palumbo said it was wonderful to see children forgetting their electronics and marveling at artisans. She said one group of little girls spread their blanket out and just watched one woman weaving. “They were mesmerized,” she said. She said the staff is excited about the event as well as the debut of Thar She Blows!, which will bring many of the artifacts that visitors have seen in the past at the museum together in a cohesive story.
Nomi Dayan, executive director, said the exhibit stems from her research while writing the Images of America book, “Whaling on Long Island,” released in the beginning of this year. The executive director said the exhibit features a painted mural depicting the cross-section of a whaling boat. In addition to the mural, museumgoers will find maritime-inspired activities, artifacts mounted to the wall and informational panels. Dayan said the hope is that visitors will connect to Long Island’s whaling history.
“It was difficult putting it together because Long Island has such a rich whaling heritage. Right after Southampton was established in 1644, whaling companies sprang up,” she said. “To really understand Long Island is to understand how whaling affected it. So it was difficult trying to boil down this story onto just a couple of walls.” Dayan added that while the museum’s former standing exhibit focused on Cold Spring Harbor’s contribution to whaling, the new one takes an expanded look at Long Island’s involvement in the industry as a whole.
According to Dayan, visitors will find a light-up map featuring local former ports and a recruitment station where guests will be able to ask each other questions to see if they would have been qualified to be a whaler, such as, “Can you eat food with cockroaches in it?” Museum guests will find a scent box where they will be able to smell what cooking blubber and a fo’c’sle smelled like. A fo’c’sle, which is short for forecastle, was the part of the ship where the bottom-ranking whalers slept in cramped bunk beds in filth and grime, a scent that Dayan pointed out will reinforce to the learners what issues whalers faced.
The executive director said visitors will find more fresh additions to the museum including lifesize cardboard cutouts throughout the museum. The new collection enables visitors to learn more about the various personalities that made up the whaling industry, from the rich captain who built a mansion out east to a lowly greenhand, according to Dayan.
“We wanted to show the diverse range of cultures and backgrounds of people who made up the industry. So, that’s something else fresh that people can anticipate,” she said. Dayan said the goal of an event such as SeaFaire as well as the new exhibit is for visitors to come away with a deeper understanding of local maritime heritage. “We want our history to be a foundation for the future. Hopefully the crafts making and fun of it will open people’s eyes to the tremendous story here.”
The Whaling Museum & Education Center, 301 Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor, hosts SeaFaire on Sunday, Oct. 2 from noon to 3 p.m., rain or shine. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and children. Some activities require an extra fee. For more information, call 631-367-3418 or visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org.