Mystic Seaport’s “Treasures from the Collections” tells maritime stories like never before.

Ditty Box, 1877, panbone, wood, ivory, baleen, and horn, 6 1/2 x 8 5/8. Capt. Frederick Howland Smith (1840-1924) rose through the whaling ranks to command a number of vessels, inclusing the OHIO and JOHN P. WEST, in the 1870s and 1880s. His wife, Sarah G. "Sallie" Wordell Smith (1840-1896), accompanied him on several voyages and recorded some of his scrimshaw efforts in her journal, now in the collections at Mystic Seaport. She helped him make this panbone ditty box with elaborate inlaid top on board the bark OHIO in December 1877. Panbone is the rear part of the jawbone of a sperm whale.

A creative way to learn the stories of the sea: A new exhibit at Mystic Seaport opens March 31, featuring rare and unique items as well as images handpicked by curators from the museums vast (2 million+ pieces) collections. Many of the items have not been seen before by the public and have been carefully tucked away for years.

Each treasure stands on its own both artistically and symbolically. A sailor’s ditty box from 1877, for example, pictured right, is a gorgeous glimpse of an unique aspect of life at sea long-ago. A Mandarin robe from the Manchu Dynasty is a maritime trade piece on display.

The photos from 150 years ago, snapshots of preserved time, give me chills. And they’ll be sitting next to work by artists like James E. Buttersworth, Isaac Sheffield and James Bard.

A new book “America and the Sea: Treasures from the Collections of Mystic Seaport” will be on hand as the catalog/guide for the exhibit. It  is an excellent reference and wonderful memento from this unique exhibit that runs through 2013.



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