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 rope-strapped thimble carved from whalebone would have had a light rope through the eye for rigging, perhaps on a whaleboat.
- These miniature items also served as children’s toys or curiosities back home. Toys in the form of miniature working ship parts were easy and quick for sailors to carve, and they did not require much skill to make. They also served as potent reminders of where and what the men were doing during their long absences from their friends and families.
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- National Museum of American History