The New Bedford Moby-Dick Marathon is always evolving.
This MDM was the museum's twentieth. The bulk of it was held in the spanking new Harbor View Gallery, on the top floor of the recently erected education center.
Gone from the marathon were the whale skeletons "swimming" overhead. Gone was the reading of the Cetology chapter in front of the mighty sperm whale skeleton. The 180° "Harbor View" rather compensates for these losses. (Of course, nothing prevents the marathoner from moving to the skeleton gallery for a private reading of Cetology, perhaps with the live stream playing on a networked device.)
Gone were the distracting conversations of new arrivals at the rear of the Jacobs Family Gallery. These were replaced by the repeated "ding" of the new elevator.
Also gone was the balcony at the back of previous MDMs. That was a great place for a midnight doze, with the readers' voices filling your dreams. This time, marathoners kipped in adjoining rooms and on the floor below—a darkened classroom on the 2nd floor kept a video stream of the reading going through the night. The snacks-area on the ground floor was spacious, with a laptop playing the video stream as well.
This year's readers seemed better prepared and more articulate than ever. The general vibe felt respectful of the text and the "institution" of the MDM.
Now a quick recap...(Note that the museum's Facebook page has photos, video clips, and links to media coverage of MDM20; video of the reading is archived here.)
Arthur Motta (Director of Marketing & Communications at the museum) gave the Friday night talk, How Moby-Dick Influenced New Bedford. He showed how, starting from 1922, films involving whaling kindled interest in the city's history, and led to the revival of historic New Bedford. It was entertaining (with clips from old films and newsreels), and informative:
- Count Friedrich von Ledebur, an Austrian and friend of John Huston, was cast in the 1956 film because Huston thought he looked like the Rockwell Kent illustration of Queequeg.
- Melville's granddaughter, Eleanor Melville Metcalf, rode with Gregory Peck in the parade preceding the premiere of Huston's Moby-Dick. Peter Whittemore (HM's g-g-grandson) told us that his grandmother joked about getting "a peck on the cheek from Gregory Peck." [Great to see Peter back at the MDM!]
The Queens—Wyn Kelly (M.I.T), Mary K. Bercaw Edwards (Mystic Seaport, Univ. of Connecticut), Jennifer Baker (N.Y.U.)
The Kings—Tim Marr (Univ. of North Carolina), Robert Wallace (Univ. of Kentucky), Chris Sten (George Washington U.)
Nathaniel Philbrick as first reader.
About this time I ducked out to the Chat with the Melville Scholars. The "Chats" are my favorite part of the MDM these days.