Virtual NHA

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During these unprecedented times, the Nantucket Historical Association is sharing digital resources weekly to enrich the lives of our members and friends at home through video lectures, kids activity kits, our transcription program, history articles and more! All the information in our newsletters is being gleaned from the resources presented below. We hope you’ll dive in, enjoy, and give your mind a rest from thinking about today’s challenges.

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Satellite view of Nantucket Sound in July 1974 (image: P6652). Join us tonight to explore the archaeology of submerged paleolandscapes: Nantucket Sound and beyond with David Robinson, the Director and Chief Archaeologist of the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources.

Over the past two decades, the archaeology of submerged paleolandscapes drowned by post-glacial global sea level rise has developed from a theoretical to an actualized research endeavor in North America. Advances in the technologies, methodologies, theories, and approaches for locating drowned, formerly terrestrial, ancient landscapes underwater have successfully identified for the first time intact paleolandforms and ancient Indigenous cultural materials preserved in situ.

Research conducted in the waters of Nantucket Sound and nearby Rhode Island has been at the forefront of this development. This presentation tonight will provide an overview of some of this recent research, its results, the sites that have been found, and the knowledge gained, as well as propose several goals for future research in Nantucket Sound and beyond.

Held virtually at 5:30pm EST, via Zoom (swipe up in our story or click the link in our bio to register now).
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In commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the NHA is pleased to present a digital exhibit, The Road from Abolition to Suffrage (swipe up in our story to explore today).

This is a story of inspiring individuals who moved Nantucket—and the nation—towards a more just and equitable distribution of political power. It begins with a simple will written in 1710 endowing a formerly enslaved man with property and runs up to the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920 granting voting rights to women.
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We are hard at work to continue the important work of digitizing and uploading our collection of ships’ logs to the crowdsourcing manuscript transcription service From the Page and we have new logs for you to set sail on!

Two new voyages are now available for transcription, follow along on the voyages of the ships Nantucket and Norman. Both voyages are found together in the same logbook. The photo above is from the Nantucket voyage.

Sound interesting, but not sure where to get started? Not to worry, we have complete instructions on our website (click the link in our bio).
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Winter is a great time of year for star gazing on Nantucket. Pictured here is the comet Hale-Bopp in a starlit sky over the Old Mill in 1997 taken by Rick Morcom, image number SC389.

Although @maria_mitchell_association Loines Observatory is not currently open to the public, there is plenty of star gazing information available on their website. All you really need is a dark night, a pair of binoculars, and some patience!

The Quadrantides meteor shower is tonight and and tomorrow, with more than 40 meteors per hour at the peak. Why not start the new year off in a stellar way with a shower of meteors? Best viewing is after midnight.
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Painting of Clipper ship Midnight, 1860s by Hin Qua (active ca. 1850–80).

Captain George H. Brock (1826-1908) of Nantucket commanded the clipper ship Midnight from 1858 to 1864 and again from 1866 to 1872. He made numerous passages from Boston and New York around Cape Horn to San Francisco, as well as voyages to Honolulu, Hong Kong, Rangoon, Yokohama, Melbourne, and other ports, carrying trade goods of all descriptions and, on at least one occasion, 356 immigrant workers from China to San Francisco.

Captain Brock's wife, Charlotte (1828-1912), and daughter, Susan (1852-1937), sailed with him at least once, in 1858. One stormy day, he bundled Susan up warmly and brought her on deck.

“Between driving snow squalls,” she remembered, “[he] told me which way to look to see a point of land covered with snow and ice, saying, with much emphasis, ‘Now look hard and try to remember what you see, for there are not many little girls who ever see Cape Horn.’”

Susan Brock later became the first curator of the NHA. Serving for thirty-four years, she gave many Brock family heirlooms to the collection, including Chinese porcelains and textiles carried on the Midnight and a quilt square she herself stitched during her Cape Horn passage.

Gift of the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association, 2017.9.1.
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One of the island’s most iconic images is this beautiful dory carrying a lighted Christmas tree, moored in the Easy Street boat basin. It appears every December and is a classic island holiday treasure.

This tradition was started in the 1960s by the late Sid Killen and has been continued by his children, and grandchildren.

The defining characteristics of a dory are that it is a small boat, planked up with wide boards running fore and aft, has a flat bottom, high sides, is bowed, and has a narrow transom. Dories are known for their seaworthiness and rowing ease, although this depends a great deal on the skill of the oarsman.

They were widely used in the fishing industry of New England, and were designed to carry large amounts of wet fish. Most of us would agree that this finely built craft looks much better with a Christmas tree onboard.

Photo: PH-9-5-10-2.
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Nantucket has a history of festive decorating for the holidays. The beautiful tradition of Christmas trees lining Main Street began in 1948, with three dozen trees placed between the Pacific Bank and the Pacific Club.

But did you know that the first community Christmas tree observance with a lighted tree in front of the Pacific Bank took place in 1915? On Christmas Eve at 8 o’clock a chorus of students, accompanied by a coronet, sang Christmas carols to a large gathering. Following the program Richard F. Dixon, then keeper of the Brant Point lighthouse, climbed the tower of the Unitarian Church and played the song, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, on his trumpet.

There was clear weather that night with little wind and his notes were heard throughout the town. The success of the first community Christmas tree led to a continuing of the observance for many years, and is still with us today.

Photo: Main Street, 1970s, P21638.
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On this night in 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place.

It was the culmination of a series of events that steadily aroused the ire of colonists who considered themselves British subjects entitled to the same rights and privileges as those who lived in England—rights that included representation in Parliament. England needed money, especially after the French and Indian Wars, and imposed monopolies and taxes—especially on tea, which was a hugely popular commodity—on the American colonists, denying them any recourse. Bostonians submitted to the inequity of the taxation until their resentment motivated them to resist, and on the night of December 16, 1773, they made their historic move.

Everyone knows that the Boston Tea Party was a pivotal point in United States history and that it was the spark that ignited the American Revolution. But how many know that two of the three ships involved were whaleships out of Nantucket? Swipe up in our stories to read the full article!

We are also excited to highlight this new acquisition of this Chippendale-style side chair to our collection. This chair is one of a set of six purchased in London in 1773 by Captain Hezekiah Coffin and carried to America aboard his vessel, the Beaver (one of the three ships involved in the Boston Tea Party). Another chair from this set has been in the NHA’s collection since 1952, and this one makes a welcome addition and companion to it. Neither chair has its original seat upholstery, and we are undertaking research to see what it might originally have been covered with.

Both chairs are now on display in the Whaling Museum Williams Forsyth Gallery for all to enjoy upon our reopening.
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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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