Published: May 23, 2017
NANTUCKET, MASS. – The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) is the recipient of a significant gift of Nantucket artifacts from the collection of Bob and Nina Hellman, former Katonah, N.Y., residents who have lived on the island full-time since the mid-1990s.
Many of the artifacts specified in the gift relate to the island’s whaling history. They include rare harpoons, lances and spades made on Nantucket by Gustavus Gifford, Elisha Parker, Charles A. Folger and Samuel Brown Folger. The trove also features a stock certificate from the Nantucket Marine Camel Company, the journal of a voyage aboard the whaleship Maria (1832-36), a watercolor painting from 1803 of the whaleship Edward of Dunkirk and a poster for an 1894 train and boat excursion from Boston to Nantucket on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.
An antiques dealer specializing in marine art and artifacts, Nina Hellman kept an open shop in Nantucket for 27 years. The Hellmans have actively collected Nantucket material for five decades, amassing the largest private collection of whaling artifacts, according to the NHA.
The couple are working to secure the legacy of Bob Hellman’s collection by arranging for it to be divided, through a combination of gift and purchase, among a handful of top maritime museums, among them the NHA New Bedford Whaling Museum, Mystic Seaport and the Peabody Essex Museum. The Hellmans hope to partner with these institutions to create an online catalog of Bob Hellman’s collection where his years of research can reside.
“The NHA is delighted to receive these rare Nantucket artifacts from Bob and Nina. Their generosity makes the Nantucket Historical Association’s already world-class whaling collection that much stronger and richer,” says Michael R. Harrison, NHA’s chief curator.
Four items from this gift are featured in the NHA’s new exhibition “Out of the Box: Unpacking Nantucket Stories.” Pieces on view include a builder’s half-hull model of the Nantucket fishing schooner Charlotte Brown; a shadow box model of the whaleship Three Brothers made by Wallace N. Long, custodian of the Whaling Museum from 1942 to 1954; and two harpoon irons made by Elisha Parker.
The Nantucket Historical Association’s Whaling Museum is at 13 Broad Street. For more information, 508-228-1894 or www.nha.org.
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