In the heart of downtown New Bedford, in an 1853 bank building that once held great wealth earned from whaling voyages, is headquartered a national park. For some, this fact is as familiar as the cobblestones that surround the building, but for many more, this comes as a complete surprise. New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park's visitor center, located at 33 William Street, (across from the Custom House), is celebrating its fifteenth year since its establishment in 1996.
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is the only national park site dedicated to preserving and interpreting America's nineteenth century whaling stories. They are stories about people: Whalemen from towns nearby working side by side with mariners from far-flung places such as the Azores, Cape Verde, and Hawaii. Escaped slaves seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad came to this city hoping to find jobs in the growing whaling business. Those who “go down to the sea in ships” in today's fishing trade have much in common with New Bedford's 19th century whaling traditions.
The park visitor center is open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 PM, and has exhibits and an orientation film called “The City that Lit the World,” shown every hour on the hour from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. In addition, there are special events open to all. On Friday mornings, at 10:00 AM, a story hour for children ages 0-5 called Whales, Tales and Sails is offered, with professional storyteller Karen Chace. The program includes songs, finger play, and crafts. On AHA! (art, history, architecture) nights, on the second Thursday of each month, Ruth and Abby, the 1850s ladies, discuss and demonstrate a wide range of topics from their time. On the third Friday of each month, at 7:00 PM, films about the working waterfront are shown in the park's theater in a series called Dock-U-Mentaries.
Oh, and I suppose one more fact should be revealed: all of these activities are free of charge to all, with no admission fees. For more information, call 508-996-4095, go to the park website at http://www.nps.gov/nebe/index.htm, or check out the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NBWNHP.
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Check our events page to find out about future happenings from The New Bedford Whaling Historical Park:
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