Nantucket Historical Association -June 2013

The Nantucket Historical Association’s “NANTUCKET LEGENDS: Foggy Facts and Fictions” and “JOHN AUSTIN: One Artist’s Nantucket” on display through Nov. 15 and Dec. 31, respectively For more information, call (508) 228-1894 or visit

Have you ever heard a Nantucket story and asked your- self whether it was a myth or in fact true? The Nantucket Historical Association helps answer those questions with its 2013 exhibit “Nantucket Legends: Foggy Facts and Fic- tions,” on display now in the Peter Foulger Gallery at the Whaling Museum through Nov. 15.

The exhibit will examine some of the island’s popular and perhaps peculiar stories of the past, including legends surrounding the first Nantucket Tea Party, R.H. Macy’s red- star tattoo, Tony Sarg’s sea-serpent hoax, the origin of roof walks on many of the island’s houses, Folger’s Coffee and Nantucket Reds.

“The basic idea is that we wanted to explore some of the stories that you hear people and summer residents, telling – some of the stories that people maybe heard from their grandparents, things that are wonderful sto- ries, and we’re delving into some of them to try to figure out if they’re true or not,” said Sarah Parks, the NHA’s associate curator. “Even if something is fictional, it does- n’t mean the story itself doesn’t teach us something about the way in which that story came to be and how that story changed over time.”

Ben Simons, the NHA’s Robyn & John Davis Chief Cura- tor, said that stories take on a life of their own, and some become so ingrained in the popular consciousness that they do have a life, whether they’re true or not.

Choosing which stories to include took some time and began with a long list that quickly began to change.

“It shifted quite a bit during the course of the plan- ning,” Parks said. “We wanted to have some thematic groups, so there will be one section on food and drink, one section that has to do with landscape and there’s a whaling section. So we were looking at things that the NHA might be better equipped than other places to really delve into. We’re reaching into our collections, manu- scripts, photo archives.”
In addition to its main exhibit, the NHA will also show “John Austin: One Artist’s Nantucket” at the Whitney Gallery in its Fair Street research library through Dec. 31.

The island artist’s photo-realist paintings featuring Nan- tucket’s laid-back atmosphere will focus on island icons like Steamboat Wharf, its lighthouses, beaches and Chester Barrett’s “vehicle graveyard.”

The collection will be a mix of pieces from the NHA and Artists Association of Nantucket’s permanent collections.

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