Billy Komonaseok, Large walrus tusk cribbage board with monochrome engraving on both sides (c. 1910)

On Tuesday, March 28, the daylong symposium The Wider World and Scrimshaw will be held in-person at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, with an option for virtual attendance. Renowned and emerging scholars will explore global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim that were influenced by, sat in conversation with, and had an influence on “Yankee” whaling scrimshaw. The day celebrates international maritime material culture and dives deep into the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Indigenous collections from Oceania, the Pacific Northwest, and the Global Arctic. The symposium is generously supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

The Wider World and Scrimshaw is an exciting opportunity to bring together leading scholars and new voices working on the material culture of the Pacific Rim and to explore an under-studied area of our collection in relation to “Yankee” whaling scrimshaw. The museum’s collection of scrimshaw is the largest in the world and has been widely studied and published. In contrast, our Pacific Rim collections are less well understood. This symposium is an opportunity to reframe our approach to these two collection areas through a global lens.

Naomi Slipp, Chief Curator at the New Bedford Whaling Museum

Speakers will consider Native Alaskan carving traditions, including Iñupiat and Yup’ik makers, Native Hawai’ian Lei niho palaoa, Fijian tabua, Māori material culture, and Pilipinx archives and the circulation and replication of imperialist imagery, and will share models for Indigenous-led engagement with museum collections. The symposium aims to open a dialogue about the colonial legacies that inform collections like this, and asks: How can we better understand and interpret these collections from a global perspective, and what can such engagements offer — in the galleries and beyond, as museums steward objects from around the world?

For additional information or to purchase in-person or virtual tickets, visit