Life on remote, windswept Nantucket has always fostered extraordinary women. Intelligent, educated, passionate, and brave, they took on difficult issues involving anti-slavery, women’s rights, suffrage, and times of war. Despite obstacles, they each assumed roles and attitudes that were not common for women of their time.
Now holographic technology has enabled the Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) to bring seven representatives of this remarkable group of women back to life to meet visitors in a permanent installation at the Whaling Museum. Spirits Within Us, a new holographic experience and interactive exhibit is part of the expanded exhibition entitled The Road from Abolition to Suffrage in the Williams Forsyth Gallery. Hearing these women explain in their own words the stories of their own remarkable lives and the people they knew who inspired them brings a new dimension to understanding how they perceived their place in Nantucket history.
- Selected spirits include:
Wonoma (1600s), as told by poet Charlotte Baxter Starbuck (1853–1927), portrayed by Sarah Fraunfelder.
- Mary Coffin Starbuck (1645–1717), portrayed by Alexandra Kopko.
- Kezia Folger Coffin (1723–1798), portrayed by Cynthia Csabay.
- Eliza Starbuck Barney (1802–1889), portrayed by Pam Murphy.
- Susan Austin Veeder (1816–1897), portrayed by Casey Sayre Boukas.
- Anna Gardner, (1816–1901), portrayed by Eve D. Messing, with Eunice Ross (1824–1895), portrayed by Morgan Smith-Jones.
This project began in late 2019 when the NHA chartered Al and Mary Novissimo of Novation Media, with investigating the feasibility of and developing a historic concept to exploit the use of holographic technology at an NHA property. Mary Novissimo explains, “We were excited about using this unique technology as a powerful tool to tell Nantucket’s stories in a more compelling and immersive way. Inspired by live performances periodically mounted by NHA interpreters at the Whaling Museum, we chose Nantucket’s extraordinary women as our theme. After identifying technically how and where we could stage the exhibit and preparing a screenplay for our cast, we reached out to other skilled colleagues in the Nantucket community who could complement our efforts to enrich the experience.”
This led to a memorable collaboration in 2021 with Theatre Workshop of Nantucket (TWN) to select and work with actors from the community, and costume them appropriately for their time. Nantucket Community Television (NCTV) joined the collaboration by filming the performances in their green-screen studio, an essential element in creating holographic effects.
Justin Cerne, TWN Producing Artistic Director, notes, “I am absolutely thrilled with the creative collaboration that has taken place with the NHA and TWN. Working together to tell the stories of such extraordinary women is not only a natural pairing, it has produced some incredible work. We are honored to play a part in the telling of these stories, the struggles, and inspiration that we continue to build upon today. I remain truly in awe of what takes place on our magical island and grateful to all the talent involved in making this experience a reality.”
The NHA extends special thanks to the Novissimos, who conceived, spirited, and produced this holographic experience in its entirety. Additional thanks to Justin Cerne, TWN, for casting and direction, to Casey Sayre Boukus for inspired costuming, to Dee White and Catie O’Connor of NCTV for green-screen videography, and to Jeffrey Allen for exhibit photography.
The featured exhibition, The Road from Abolition to Suffrage, which first opened in the summer of 2020, will reopen with exciting new additions and this holographic interactive on Saturday, May 29. The NHA’s Hadwen House will also open on Saturday, May 29 and will feature a Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum exhibition, as well as exhibitions showcasing the NHA’s decorative arts collection and an exceptional map display spanning more than 100 years.
Reserve a visit to the Whaling Museum on NHA.org today to enjoy all the new 2021 experiences.