The Whaling Museum & Education Center

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The Whaling Museum & Education Center
Whaling Museum Exterior.jpg
Established 1942
Location Cold Spring Harbor, New York
Coordinates 40°52′21″N 73°27′15″W / 40.8725°N 73.454167°W / 40.8725; -73.454167

The Whaling Museum & Education Center, formerly known as the The Whaling Museum, is a maritime museum located in Cold Spring Harbor, New York dedicated to exploring the local history and impact of the whaling industry, the maritime heritage of Long Island, and the relationship between people and the ocean.

The mission is to explore the ever-changing relationship between humans and whales through inquiry-based education and interpretation of artifacts that emphasize the cultural, scientific and environmental significance of Long Island and the Sea. We help members and visitors make informed decisions about our marine environment. The Museum serves 20,000 visitors annuallyand is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Located in a historic 19th century waterside village on the North Shore of Suffolk County, the Whaling Museum Society was founded in 1936, with the Museum opening its front doors in 1942. Current exhibit space is 2500 square feet, which includes an educational workshop. The Museum is the only facility in New York State open year-round which focuses on the prominent whaling history of the region and its meaningful applications in today’s world.

The museum holds about 6,000 documents and artifacts from Cold Spring Harbor and other Long Island whaling towns. Highlights of the collection include New York State’s only fully equipped 19th-century whaleboat with original gear and one of the most notable scrimshaw collections in the northeast.

Additional displays include whaling implements, ship’s gear, navigational aids, ship models and maritime art. The library and archival collection contains 2,800 primary and secondary volumes and manuscript material from the Cold Spring whaling fleet, ship’s logs, journals and business correspondence of the Cold Spring Whaling Company, family documents dealing with maritime commerce on Long Island, records of the Long Island coastwise trade under sail and records from the Cold Spring Harbor Customs House (1798 until 1908).

The museum hosts educational events and exhibitions year-round, including films, lectures, performances, and special events, many of which creatively connect the subject of whaling to other subjects in art, science, and culture. The museum's education department runs an extensive "Museum to You" program, as well as camp weeks during school breaks.

Museum Collection[edit]

The Museum’s collection attests to Long Island’s maritime heritage based in the whaling industry. The majority of the Museum’s collections were donated over time, starting as a community repository from the Museum’s founding in 1936. Over the past 80 years, the Museum has steadily acquired an extensive and varied collection which, when possible, are integrated into the Museum’s public programming. Totaling 6,000 pieces, most pieces speak to the 19th century whaling industry, specifically Long Island whaling, as well as the local history of Cold Spring Harbor and its growth as a maritime port. The collection speaks volumes about Long Island’s vibrant whaling past and the process by which America was put on the economic world map, including letters recording daring rescues at sea, photographs showing the economic growth of whaling villages, crew lists with signatures of multicultural crew members, iron harpoons revealing the evolution of innovation, glass bottles of amber whale oil which facilitated the Industrial Revolution, and modern whaling tools which pushed whale populations to the brink of extinction. These artifacts show the complexity of whaling and its regional importance – and more importantly, its timely lessons for today: these artifacts offer important messages learned from environmental and economic choices of the past. The collection includes:

  • • Scrimshaw: 500 scrimshaw items crafted by whalers at sea, one of the true American folk arts, including decorative pieces on teeth and tusks. The collection excels in its variety of hundreds of utilitarian pieces such as sewing boxes, swifts, busks, fids, and jagging wheels – a collection considered one of the finest in the northeast.
  • • Whalecraft, Ship Gear, and Navigational Aids: 275 Tools, including a 19th-century whaleboat from the Long Island whaleship the Daisy (and the only fully equipped whaleboat with its original gear on display in New York State), with a collection of tools, trypot, figureheads, and navigational tools.
  • • Archives: Containing 95% of the existing manuscript material from the Cold Spring Harbor whaling fleet (documenting 44 voyages of 9 ships from 1836 to 1862), including 15 ships logs, 12 journals, and business correspondence; 90% of the records from the local Customs House (1798-1908); records of the Long Island coastwise trade under sail; photos of crewmembers, vessels, and ports; family scrapbooks.
  • • Richmond Collection: The Museum acquired a major addition in 2012 of documents, letters, receipts, shipping lists, and manuscripts preserved from the Cold Spring Harbor ship the Richmond, wrecked on the Bering Straits in 1849. The archive reveals the Richmond’s significant history as the focus of a legal judgment in maritime salvage law that holds effect to this day.
  • • Models: 12 detailed models of whaling ships, including one by the master ship model maker Henry Culver; a large diorama of Cold Spring Harbor in 1850 (48 inches × 72 inches), painstakingly completed in 1970.
  • • Marine Art: 150 paintings, lithographs, and daguerreotypes depicting whaling scenes; works by Currier & Ives, S.A. Mount, C. Ashley, W. Brandford, and watercolors of local ships by E.F. Tufnell.
  • • Daily Life: 6 costumes, 50 whale oil lamps and candleholders, accessories, and objects of daily living in the 1850s donated by local whaling families; ship in a bottle, early 19th century glass flasks, kitchen tools, and prescription bottles.
  • • Natural History: 25 skeletal whale bones; 2 narwhal tusks; sperm whale jaw; orca skull; ear bones; blubber sample; other biological specimens from ocean life, including coral.
  • • Hewlett Collection: Acquired in 1989 from the state of John D. Hewlett including over 200 photographs, 300 pieces of correspondence pertaining to the growth of Cold Spring Harbor as a maritime community, Edward Lange landscapes, portraits by S. A. Mount of local citizens, ledgers from local industries including grist mills, saw mills, and shipyards, providing a wealth of research.
  • • Hoie Collection: 24 whaling-themed watercolor paintings by the locally celebrated Long Island watercolorist Claus Hoie (1911-2007), gifted in 2012 to the Museum through the Hoie Foundation.


In 1932 a small number of residents of Cold Spring Harbor, NY commissioned a monument commemorating the village's earlier days as a whaling port. A boulder was dredged from the harbor and erected on the village square and lists the names of the 9 vessels in the fleet. In later years the monument was moved to the museum's property, where it remains today.

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