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New Bedford Whaling Museum Offers a Whale of a Good Time

New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, Mass.

Quite the view at the New Bedford Whaling Museum!

by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 11/20/16

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If you're looking for a museum that doesn't quite swim with the rest of the pack, then plan on anchoring your day at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Mass.

Located in the heart of the U.S. National Park Service's 13-block Whaling District -- with cobblestone streets, old sea captain homes, historic brick buildings and many fine shops and restaurants -- the Whaling Museum voyages far beyond just a bunch of whale skeletons and hunting boats. As the largest museum of its kind in the world, the modern-looking Whaling Museum celebrates, and educates visitors on, the glory days of New Bedford's world-renowned whaling industry and its greatest port. At one time in the mid-1800s, New Bedford was considered one of the richest cities in the world, given whale oil was yesteryear's petroleum! Additionally, Herman Melville, working as a whaler in New Bedford, wrote the famous classic novel Moby Dick (published in 1851), thus putting New Bedford "on the map" even more.

The Whaling Museum features opportunities to hop aboard a half-scale whaling boat and full-size forecastle (the forward section of a vessel reserved for the crew's quarters), browse art, artifacts, and manuscripts, view skeletons (Kobo the mammoth 66-foot blue whale is amazing!), shop at a nice little "whaling-oriented" gift shop, and create scrimshaw designs at the arts and crafts area. While each exhibition and activity has tremendous entertaining and educational value, the most outstanding aspect of the Whaling Museum is how the staff brings all the attractions to life. The extremely knowledgeable guides really seem to enjoy their jobs, combining an impressive array of knowledge with a desire to educate children and adults, alike. The staff we intereacted with were kind in nature and in no rush to move onto the next group -- quite impressive, given the crowds there, that day. It's almost as if the guides were world-class experts on the New Bedford whaling days. You could almost picture any one of these staffers appearing as an expert on a television or movie documentary on whaling!

It's quite rare to tour a museum that has all its "oars in the water" -- interesting attractions, a welcoming not-stuffy learning environment, a modern but comfortable open layout plan, and a dedicated, expert staff. This is truly a "killer" whale museum, making the most of its storied subject matter by tapping into the "who, where, what, when, why and how," in a most informative and entertaining way.

New Bedford Whaling Museum
18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA, 02740
Web site:

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