It is fascinating how something that seems small and insignificant can be so vital that entire ecosystems and industries would collapse without it. What comes to mind when you think of something like that? Chances are it is not seaweed, an ever-present and sometimes slightly annoying companion of anyone who has ever been to a beach. The people responsible for the recent exhibition at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts, would disagree with this sentiment. A new show titled “A Singularly Marine & Fabulous Produce: the Cultures of Seaweed” features over 125 works of fine and decorative art, which prove that seaweed has indeed played an important role in human history.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum Dedicates an Exhibition to Seaweed
The New Bedford Whaling Museum picked out an unusual topic for its new exhibition. “A Singularly Marine & Fabulous Produce: the Cultures of Seaweed” features pieces of fine art and design ranging from 1780 to the modern day. All of the exhibited herbaria, ceramics, marine paintings, photographs, and illustrations have one thing in common — all of them are dedicated to seaweed. The diverse selection of items displays humanity’s fascination with sea vegetation: here, you can see a picture of a lady wearing a bunch of seaweed like a cape, a punch bowl decorated with intricately carved designs, a delicate ink sketch, and many more.
The exhibit focuses on works born out of the 19th-century “seaweed craze,” which manifested itself in seaweed being gifted, collected, used in crafts and cuisine, and studied by scientists and artists. Apart from curating a beautiful collection of artwork and decorative pieces, the New Bedford Whaling Museum does a marvelous job of conveying the cultural and historical significance of seaweed. In the center of the display is a multidisciplinary scholarly catalog filled with articles by ecologists, art historians, and biologists.
The Museum does not miss an opportunity to join the conversation about climate change and its effects on the world around us. By examining how seaweed was used in the past, scholars of today hope to use this abundant resource offered by the sea to find alternative and more sustainable solutions for current issues.
Overall, “A Singularly Marine & Fabulous Produce: the Cultures of Seaweed” is a terrific show that, apart from being educational, manages to be touching, showing the close relationship between humans and nature. The exhibition will be open until December 3, 2023, so you have time to check it out when you are in New Bedford, Massachusetts.