A New Exhibition, Island People: Portraits and Stories from Nantucket Opens April 22

NANTUCKET, MA – The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) will present the exhibition Island People: Portraits and Stories from Nantucket in the Whaling Museum, Williams Forsyth Gallery, opening Daffodil Weekend.

This exhibition will draw from the NHA’s collection of painted, photographic, and silhouette portraits to highlight both famous and lesser-known Nantucketers whose life stories intersect with the themes and currents of the island’s history.

Most visitors think of stiffly posed sea captains or stuffy men of business when they reflect on what portraits they imagine a historical society like the NHA might display in its museum.  However, Nantucket’s history is much more than white whaling captains and wealthy merchant families. The NHA’s collection contains hundreds of painted portraits and thousands of studio photographs representing people from many parts of the island’s diverse past.

Exhibit highlights will include the earliest known painted portrait of a Nantucketer; an exceptional tintype of a leader of the island’s 19th-century Black community; portraits of children with their pets; likenesses of millers, innkeepers, tailors, mothers, sailors, and sweethearts in the NHA’s collection. Once on display, the exhibition will feature over one hundred portraits representing a wide selection of islander likenesses.

Michael R. Harrison, the NHA’s chief curator and Obed Macy Research Chair said, “The individuals presented in this exhibition represent as broad and diverse a range of island people as possible, within the limitations of who sat for portraits in the past and which portraits have survived to be collected. We hope the human face of the island’s past will inspire visits to remember their own family stories and how they relate to Nantucket.”



The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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