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    Re: Theseus' Ship; the Morgan; Fluid Texts
    From: Michael Dyer
    Date: 2014 Jul 7, 08:47 -0400

    Dear Michelle:


    Mary Malloy is very good in this subject in Souvenirs of the Fur Trade. Meanings attached to “real” artifacts shift from original makers to collectors to museum interpretation. From my point of view provenance is everything. Of course throughout, the Richard Ellis theorem of historical lore states: “If a story is told often enough it doesn’t really matter whether it happened or not.”


    My best, MPD


    Michael P. Dyer

    Senior Maritime Historian

    New Bedford Whaling Museum

    18 Johnny Cake Hill

    New Bedford, MA 02740


    (508) 717-6837

    Office located at 791 Purchase St.


    From: 38Talk@fer3.com [mailto:38Talk@fer3.com] On Behalf Of Michelle Moon
    Sent: Sunday, July 06, 2014 8:06 PM
    To: Michael Dyer
    Subject: [38Talk] Re: Theseus' Ship; the Morgan; Fluid Texts


    Hi everyone,


    I've been really interested to read the literary perspective on the significance of "originality" and fluid texts. Though it's new to me regarding literature, it mirrors a discussion in the world of museum theory - what does it mean for an object to be "authentic" or "original," and how much does that matter? Is an object's "realness" located in its materiality, or in the meanings constructed around it? (Plymouth Rock is a great example. It doesn't seem to have had anything to do with the Separatist colonists, but it has aggregated significant meanings over the decades, and is still an object with strong valence associated with a particular set of ideas and values despite its lack of a "real" Pilgrim history).


    Though objects do contain physical evidence which can yield information through human inquiry, very little meaning inheres in an object itself. We read meanings into objects, and maintain (or attempt to maintain) those meanings through a process of remembering and communicating about them. Few historic sites contain all original fabric. Many historic objects have been repaired, added to, chipped away at, or fundamentally changed. What does it mean to say an object, then, is "real?" This all gets pretty epistemological pretty quickly, but in general, it is the meanings we center on an object - and the agreements we have about it - as we focus activity on it that lend it "realness" or authenticity. It is one thing to stage the celebratory 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan on the Charles W. Morgan. It would be another thing to stage the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan on the QEII. I would venture that most of us agree to perceive more important linkages, more continuity, more intentionality in the Morgan as object and as an intersection of a specific set of incidents and events through time - even with new pieces all over - than we would in the QEII. 


    On Sun, Jul 6, 2014 at 6:31 PM, Peter Whittemore <NoReply_Whittemore@fer3.com> wrote:

    That the "space" the Morgan occupies is as real as any one timber of her hull might be, is a fascinating metafizzical and cosmically quizzical enigma. 
    From MD, the end of Chapter 70 "The Sphynx": 
           " O Nature and O soul of man!  how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies!  not the smallest atom stirs or lives in matter, but has its duplicate cunning in mind."
    also from Chapt 121 Midnight-The Forecastle Bulwarks: 
          Flask to Stubb, "Didn't you once say that whatever ship Ahab sails in, that ship should pay something extra on its insurance policy, just as though it were loaded powder barrels aft and boxes of lucifers forward?  Stop, now; didn't you say so?
          "Well, suppose I did?  What then? I've part changed my flesh since that time,  Why not my mind?"
         So the space the Morgan occupies, like the figure-ground drawing where it's the faces that show us the vase, carries our individual and collective memory reality of the ship, and as we change each day, body and mind, so does the Morgan, hull and space/memory.    Maybe we need to encounter that the Morgan can be newly re-launched every day.  
                 I better stop there.   Peter W. 

    Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2014 14:31:20 -0700

    Subject: [38Talk] Re: Theseus' Ship; the Morgan; Fluid Texts

    Yes! somehow the Morgan occupies a very real space even though the material that makes the space is not "original." I also like the infinite renewability of wooden ships idea. I'll be looking for those original timbers, too.

    John Bryant, Professor of English
    Founding Editor, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies
    Consulting Editor, The Melville Society, http://melvillesociety.org/
    Director, Melville Electronic Library
    Director, Hofstra Digital Research Center
    Mason 204, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 11549; Tel: 516.463.5470

    From: 38Talk@fer3.com <38Talk@fer3.com> on behalf of Matthew Bullard <NoReply_Bullard@fer3.com>
    Sent: Sunday, July 6, 2014 4:41 PM
    To: John L. Bryant
    Subject: [38Talk] Re: Theseus' Ship; the Morgan; Fluid Texts



    On Jul 6, 2014, at 12:31 PM, "John Bryant" wrote:

    But having said this, I want to know how many of us will want to see, touch, and feel some part of that 10-20% of the ship that Frank tells us is "original." Can we touch the keel, without jumping over board. (Melville, or rather Ishmael, has a chapter on the risks of knowing what the whale's spout is: you risk death finding out; but I won't get into that.


    This has been a fascinating discussion. I think it is important to note that while the Morgan might be down to her last 10-20% original fabric, she has always been a ship. Whether or not this or that plank is original might not be as important as the fact that there has *always* been a plank there, and that collection of planks (and other stuff) has always resembled more or less the ship that was launched in New Bedford in 1841. I don't think the same can be said about the brig Niagara and I'm not sure about the Constitution (pretty sure she has never been fully deconstructed). 


    Matthew Stackpole said it best about the virtues of wooden ships: they are endlessly renewable. I took great comfort knowing that I was walking in the same spaces as my ancestors, even if some of the wood wasn't exactly the same. 


    But you can go down in the hold and plainly see and touch original fabric without having to swim down and find the keel. There are some vertical support beams that are clearly very old and worn that have been left in place, and I was told they were original during our 30 April orientation day. 



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