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November 2, 2018
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

Shoreside Workers Focus of Working on the Waterfront Exhibit

Oral History Kiosk Part of New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center

Oral histories from 58 shore-based workers involved in the commercial fishing industry are featured in a new addition to the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. “Working on the Waterfront” highlights a variety of positions, from fish samplers and cutters to fuel barge operators, electronics technicians, welders and fish sellers through photos, artifacts and interviews.

The exhibit features an interactive oral history kiosk which allows visitors to listen to audio excerpts. The men and women interviewed speak about their job, their pride and passion for what they do, and what it means to be part of the fishing community. This exhibit will remain on view through February 3, 2019. Upcoming exhibits will focus on the evolution of vessels, gear, and technology.

“More than 5,000 people in the greater New Bedford area work in the commercial fishing industry both on and offshore,” said Laura Orleans, executive director of the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. “Those in shoreside businesses work in a variety of positions, from preparing a vessel to go out to sea to processing the product for market. All of these workers are vital to the success of the fishing trip and the industry.”

The oral history excerpts were taken from interviews conducted as part of the Library of Congress Archie Green Fellowship program to document occupations of contemporary American workers with audio and/or video recordings and photographs. The audio recordings and related materials will become part of the Heritage Center’s archives and NOAA’s Voices from the Fisheries database, and will also be preserved in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Interviews were conducted by Orleans from the New Bedford Heritage Center; retired marine anthropologist Madeleine Hall-Arber of MIT Sea Grant; Corinn Williams, executive director of  the Community Development Center of Southeastern Massachusetts; and oral historian Fred Calabretta of Mystic Seaport Museum.  Additional support for the project was provided by NOAA’s Voices from the Fisheries oral history program. 

“Publicly shared oral history interviews create an opportunity to hear firsthand about the unique nature of the work and life associated with fisheries in the United States,” said Patricia Pinto da Silva, co-founder of Voices from the Fisheries and a social scientist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. “These stories are personal, real and relevant. This effort represents the product of yet another exciting partnership with the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center and NOAA Fisheries.”

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, opened to the public in June 2016, educates the public about the history and culture of New Bedford’s commercial fishing industry by engaging them in authentic experiences. The Center documents that culture and history for future generations, and honors and supports the men and women who make their living from the sea.

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is open to the public Thursday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free of charge.

NOAA’s Voices from the Fisheries is a growing archive of over 1,200 oral histories from fishermen, shoreside workers, scientists, and others related to fishing communities. The central repository consolidates, archives, and disseminates oral history interviews related to commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishing in the United States and its territories. 

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