Main Hall

From Boat to Table
Using objects, text, photographs, audio, and video, this interactive exhibit allows visitors to learn about all aspects of the seafood industry. Each section of the exhibit includes a look at changes over time with historical artifacts that speak to “Back when”.

Gearing Up presents the shoreside work involved in getting a vessel ready for fishing from vessel construction and the design and manufacture of nets and dredges to taking on fuel, ice, and provisions. Visitors can try mending a section of net and develop a grub list – a shopping list to feed their crew.

At Sea explores daily life aboard a fishing vessel including all aspects of the work, the use of technology for navigation and communication, and the importance of safety, as well as the experience of cooking, eating, and sleeping at sea. A wheelhouse creates a sense of shipboard life. A dress up area allows visitors to don fisherman’s clothing.

Sustaining the Resource provides an overview of industry efforts to ensure a healthy and plentiful resource including cooperative research which combines skills and knowledge of fishermen and scientists, advancements in technology, and gear modifications to allow for greater selectivity and reduced by-catch.

Landing the Catch follows the seafood from fish hold to auction, to processing plant, and finally to market. A seafood recipe exchange collects and disseminates community recipes. Settlement sheets from the 1960s and today illustrate changing economics.

The Fish News allows visitors to listen a broadcast by local radio personality Bill Brennan.  For over 20 years, Fish News was a vital link between sea and shore.  Listen to excerpts from a 1983 broadcast and browse our library of commercial fishing books and current and back issues of industry trade papers.


Frozen Asset: Ice Making & the New Bedford Fishing Industry

February 8 – April 29, 2018

Ice can be many things: treacherous at sea and on land; delightful in a drink on a hot day; and useful at a tailgate or picnic. But did you know how ice helped the New Bedford commercial fishing industry become the success it is today?

Ice was used by railroads to transport the catch far from fishing ports, increasing the demand for fresh fish.  With the advent of refrigeration, New Bedford fishermen could land their catch in New Bedford rather than in New York City and could transport the catch to markets across the country.

Today, ice is still used to preserve the catch. Vessels ice up before heading out to sea, taking on 15 to 40 tons depending upon the trip length and weather.  This exhibit explores how ice changed the industry.  It also explores how ice was harvested historically and how it is made today.

Special thanks to Joseph E. Swift and Crystal Ice Company.

This exhibit is supported by part by New Bedford Local Cultural Council, Fairhaven Local Cultural Council, Mattapoisett Local Cultural Council and Dartmouth Local Cultural Council.

Photo of Louis Doucette, Jr. aboard F/V SANKATY HEAD (courtesy of Al Doucette)