Decorative Arts Gallery

Next to the scrimshaw gallery is a display of the some of the finest objects in the NHA’s decorative-arts collection. Presented in an airy open space, visitors hardly notice that this is one of the highest quality climate-controlled spaces in the museum. Instead, they enjoy the wonders of the NHA’s lightship basket collection, framed needlework pieces, furniture, and whimsical whirligigs in a room with a meticulously hand-painted floor by island artisan Christina Wiggins.

Now featuring the workshop of José Reyes from the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum!

The workshop of José Reyes was donated to the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum in 2001 by the Reyes family. It was moved from his home to the NLBM, and now resides in the Decorative Arts Gallery at the Whaling Museum.

Displayed at the front of the shop are carvings of whales, seagulls, nameplates, and other items available for custom order to have adorn your friendship purse. Never without his hat, traditional Philippine hats are hung on the woven palm walls with care, surrounded by basket rims, cane, and other basket making supplies. Taking a closer look inside the shop, you can see José’s work bench, complete with tools and other necessities used to create his sought-after baskets.

We invite you to come visit José Reyes’s workshop and take a peek inside the inner workings of a Nantucket lightship basket weaver’s world here at the Whaling Museum.

The Decorative Arts Gallery is also a perfect place to stop and view the wonders of the architectural design of the museum. From one corner in the gallery, visitors can look through three windows and catch three unique views encompassing a great expanse of Nantucket history. First, through the fanlight, people can peer out onto South Water Street and contemplate the lively hustle and bustle of our island community. Next they can peek through a round window, reminiscent of a ship’s porthole. Through this small pane of glass they can see the Fresnel lens, which once operated on whale oil, and beyond it, the Candle Factory. A larger rectangular window, holding the basket collection, invites viewers to take another look at the Town Clock and past the central stairway to Gosnell Hall and the spine of the sperm-whale skeleton.

Banner and third image by Emily Elisabeth Photography

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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