When Jeff Kappel’s father passed away this May just a few months shy of his 100th birthday, he was faced with the decision of rehoming his father’s extensive collection of Ships in a Bottle.
Jeff chose 19 items to donate to The Whaling Museum’s collection, saying “I want it seen. My father collected for years and loved sharing his collection with people, and I want to continue that.”
The craft of ship in a bottle is a finely crafted and challenging folk art. The earliest surviving models date to the late 1700’s. Popularized by both American and European mariners who needed to pass long hours at sea, the creator would use a discarded bottle, bits of wood and other materials to create a tiny yet accurate model of a sailing ship. With great patience for handiwork, the model was created with complete but collapsible rigging, which was inserted folded into the neck of a bottle, set into a painted diorama, and had the sails raised. Each ship in a bottle is unique, and was often created as a gift or souvenir. Retired seamen also maintained their skills by engaging in the hobby.
Lester Kappel spent a lifetime collecting ships in a bottle, some of which were loaned years ago to the Whaling Museum for a special exhibition about the craft.
A selection of ships in a bottle from this collection will be exhibited in the Museum’s craft workshop by September 2023 and will be on display thereafter. Summer hours at the museum are Tue-Sun, 11-4pm. Beginning September 3rd, fall hours start and the Museum gallery hours change to Thu-Sun, 11-4pm.
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Written by staff, volunteers, and trustees of the Museum!