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.
- This panbone, or section of the back of a sperm whale’s jaw, served as the canvas for a whaleman’s freehand drawing of a busy whale hunt off the coast of the volcanic island of Ternate, one of the Spice Islands in Indonesia and the world’s main source of cloves until the 18th century.
- In the lower left, a woman reaches out for her whaleman, who symbolically stands across the sea with one hand over his heart and a harpoon in the other. In her background is a tranquil domestic scene, probably their home. In the center, a fenced precinct labels the main scene. Above, on the right are the named whalers Margaret of London and Sophia of Nantucket. The remainder of the lively scene portrays seven whaleboats chasing a pod of six whales.
- The artist has managed to convey loneliness between loved ones, great distance from home, an exotic and remote tropical locale, and a busy whale hunt on a single stretch of whalebone.
- Date made
- mid 19th Century
- late 18th century
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History
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