The natural resources collections offer centuries of evidence about how Americans have used the bounty of the American continent and coastal waters. Artifacts related to flood control, dam construction, and irrigation illustrate the nation's attempts to manage the natural world. Oil-drilling, iron-mining, and steel-making artifacts show the connection between natural resources and industrial strength.
Forestry is represented by saws, axes, a smokejumper's suit, and many other objects. Hooks, nets, and other gear from New England fisheries of the late 1800s are among the fishing artifacts, as well as more recent acquisitions from the Pacific Northwest and Chesapeake Bay. Whaling artifacts include harpoons, lances, scrimshaw etchings in whalebone, and several paintings of a whaler's work at sea. The modern environmental movement has contributed buttons and other protest artifacts on issues from scenic rivers to biodiversity.
"Natural Resources - Overview" showing 1 items.
- This model represents a typical Massachusetts whaleship of the mid-19th century, fully rigged and ready for a long cruise that might last for as much as four years. The name “U.S. Grant, Edgartown” on the ship’s stern is fictional—no ship by that name ever sailed for the whaling fleet. The ship’s bottom is lined with copper sheathing, to keep out the teredo navalis, a tropical worm that bored into the wood of ship’s hulls and weakened the structure, as the termite does to wooden structures on land.
- The whaleboats are the most prominent features. After whales were sighted by lookouts perched at the mast tops, the boats were dropped over the sides of the mother ship to chase them. Also over the side are the cutting stages, where the whale’s fat, or blubber, was sliced off the body in long strips.
- The main feature on the ship’s deck is the try-works, or giant pots set into a brick framework, where the whale’s blubber, was boiled down into oil. After the blubber became liquid, it was drawn off to cool and then poured into heavy barrels and stored below in the ship’s cargo hold.
- This model was purchased in 1875 at Edgartown, on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.; it was one of the first objects in the Smithsonian’s National Watercraft Collection.
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center