Monday, March 25, 2013

Unsavory ivory

Without the company of women for months at a time, 19th c. North American whalers applied their frustration and imagination to the production of scrimshaw, the carving of whale ivory (teeth and bones). Two dozen of these carvings, featuring nudity and sexually explicit images, have gone on display at the Vancouver Maritime Museum as part of a new exhibit entitled "The Tattoos & Scrimshaw: The Art of the Sailor." Executive director Simon Robinson explains, “It’s an opportunity for us to show some diversity in our collection, which is rich.... The erotica is part of the craft.” They did not intend to provoke, but the mother of two toddlers has made headlines by voicing her strong objections, so museum staff have added a parental advisory to the exhibit - though they have no intention of censoring history. Other visitors, like Dave Hutchinson who was accompanied by his 13-year-old son from Victoria, are less concerned. “You can tell what they were thinking of when out at sea for two years. They didn’t have the Internet back then."

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