Hot off the press – and the latest must-have book for the library of any serious maritime antiques collector – is Scrimshaw on Nantucket, The Collection of the Nantucket Historical Association (2019), by Stuart Frank, PhD. Antiques & The Arts Weekly asked Frank to share his thoughts on the book, the collection and if there is any piece of scrimshaw he himself has been in pursuit of.
You’ve been writing on scrimshaw for years. What is it about scrimshaw that most captivates you?
I became a scrimshaw historian only by default. At my first museum job at Mystic Seaport in the 1970s, I became interested in the shipboard artworks and songs of American sailors, of which scrimshaw constitutes only a part. But in the 1980s, when I was director and chief curator of the Kendall Whaling Museum, which had the world’s largest and most comprehensive scrimshaw collection (now part of the New Bedford Whaling Museum), I came to realize that nobody had ever done any serious, systematic, scientific research on scrimshaw. So with a small coterie of maritime specialists in the USA, Australia and Britain who had come to analogous realizations, we began, individually and collaboratively, to apply orthodox art-historical methodologies to the study of scrimshaw – to examine surface characteristics in macro and micro scale; compare the works of different whalemen-artists; and develop attributions across …….