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.
- Simply carved and without any engraving, this food chopper, or mincer, was made in two pieces from a sperm whale’s jawbone. Its blunted, curved blade was used to chop soft foods such as bread dough, fruits, sausage, and animal fats. This example was donated by former Secretary of the Institution Spencer F. Baird (1823–1887) to the Smithsonian, where it became one of the earliest objects in the maritime collections.
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- National Museum of American History