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Downtown window displays attract shoppers, guests

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SouthCoast Today | The Standard-Times

Seth Chitwood (April 12, 2022)

From Yoda to a knife-wielding fisherman: How New Bedford window displays attract customers

NEW BEDFORD — As you’re walking down Bethel Street, you might do a double take thinking you’re seeing a fisherman in the window at the Fishing Heritage Center.

He’s not real — it’s just an enticing image to attract guests. It’s one of a few head-turning window scenes in the downtown area to note.

“We’re really proud of that window,” said Laura Orleans, the center’s executive director.

The man in the window is local scallop Capt. Jeff Swain. He is wearing a shucking apron and holding a scallop knife. “Scallops are hand shucked (or opened) at sea.  All members of the crew, including the captain, shuck scallops,” she said.

The window, which was installed in spring 2021, is interesting because visitors can see the image from outside and inside the center. As for observing any surprised onlookers, although Orleans said she hasn’t seen many, she said a volunteer mentioned that it’s a little scary that he’s holding a knife.

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center window treatment was designed by Chris Danemeyer of Proun Design in Spring 2021.
The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center window treatment was designed by Chris Danemeyer of Proun Design in Spring 2021. PHIL MELLO

(Heads up, if you don’t want to have a fright in the men’s room, there is a fisherman mannequin displayed in the bathroom, too.)

The window treatment was designed by Chris Danemeyer of Proun Design and the photograph was taken by Phil Mello.

In June, Orleans said the center had the privilege of having Swain attend their grand opening event to demonstrate scallop shucking.

Captain Jeff Swain, the fisherman in the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center window, demonstrates scallop shucking at the grand opening event.
Captain Jeff Swain, the fisherman in the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center window, demonstrates scallop shucking at the grand opening event. STEPHANIE TROTT

“He couldn’t have been more gracious about it,” Orleans said, adding that most fishermen can’t commit to appearances because they don’t know their schedule far in advance.

Leading up to opening their exhibit “More Than a Job,” John Cox of Medium Studio put Swain’s photo in a bow tie and in a party hat for the grand opening event.

The importance of a good window

According to ColorReflections.com, without an eye-catching display, people may walk by a store without taking time to learn about what else the store may have in stock.

Celia’s Boutique on Williams Street has its windows filled with several styled mannequins along with its iconic green dome awning over the entrance.

“Windows are one of the key elements to a store to attract customers,” said co-owner Celia Brito. “It shows them a little glimpse of what you will find, then that is the interaction that they will have between the building and what’s inside to entice them to come in.”

Celia's Boutique on Williams Street in New Bedford.
Celia’s Boutique on Williams Street in New Bedford. Submitted photo.

She said many times customers have walked in wanting to see exactly what a mannequin in their window was wearing.

Tanya Alves, co-owner, said they change their window scene almost once a week. “We don’t want it to be stale,” Brito added.

Local window scenes could see change

Brito said their windows were not made for retail because of the black bars across them, unlike typical commercial shop windows that are large, fully clear windows. “The mannequins are cut in half,” Brito said.

She said they’ve considered redoing the windows, but because the building doesn’t belong to them they haven’t had the chance yet. However, they hope Mayor Jon Mitchell’s newly announced storefront program could change that.

Celia's Boutique on Williams Street changes their window display almost weekly.
Celia’s Boutique on Williams Street changes their window display almost weekly. Submitted photo.

On March 29, Mitchell announced an investment of ARPA funding program offering grants up to $40,000 for small businesses to upgrade their storefronts.

The Enhanced Façade Improvement Program is designed to revitalize commercial neighborhoods, stimulate private investment and customer patronage, and preserve and beautify New Bedford’s commercial districts, according to a press release.

“We think that the program is absolutely wonderful and it will absolutely help our business tremendously,” Brito said. “Building owners should take advantage of that and work with the tenants because without us they don’t have the building.”

Notable eye-catching windows

Celia’s isn’t the only window that turns heads. At the Women’s Fund SouthCoast building on Williams Street, its window has several cutouts of female celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.

Inside, behind a desk, is a cutout of the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg that some people have mistaken as a “real person” working.

Paradise McFee Studio has an intriguing window featuring paintings: an old face carved into wood, hourglass and a pink whale, to name a few.

Professional painter and muralist Tuesday Desrochers designed the windows featuring “Star Wars” characters to attract guests into PLAY Arcade. Owner Adam Katz said he constantly gets positive compliments from visitors.

Professional painter and muralist Tuesday Desrochers designed the windows for PLAY Arcade on Union Street.
Professional painter and muralist Tuesday Desrochers designed the windows for PLAY Arcade on Union Street. Courtesy PLAY

Solstice Skateboarding on Purchase Street has an inviting “green” window scene with several plants and vines on display, while, Cottage Antiques on Union Street fills its windows with vintage toys and other objects from the past.

Before Swain was added to the window of the the Fishing Heritage Center, Orleans said they didn’t have much besides hanging occasional banners to attract interest from the street. It did hinder walk-in guests.

“A wonderful guy who works in the fishing industry, who’s a very talented artist, would paint the windows during the holidays,” Orleans said. “We will kind of miss that because we can’t really do that anymore with the new windows.”

However, Orleans said the installation has garnered a bunch of positive feedback and interest by people passing on the street.

“I think it’ll be fairly permanent,” she said. “It works very well for our center. We couldn’t be happier.”

Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at schitwood@s-t.com. Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.

 

Women in fisheries science

Read the article online here.

SMAST News

School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) (November 18, 2021)

As part of their Women Work project, the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center’s “Then and Now” panel discussion features pioneering scientists & SMAST students who share their experiences as women in the field of fisheries science.

Aubrey Church NBFC Then and Now panelist
New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center’s “Women in Fisheries Science – Then and Now” event took place on November 11, 2021. (Pictured: Aubrey Church).

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center recently hosted “Women in Fisheries Science – Then and Now,” a dialog featuring a panel of five women who discussed their experiences working in the field of fisheries science.

Panelists included trailblazing scientists Linda Depres, who began her career in the late 1960s and later served as the first female chief scientist on a groundfish survey at NOAA, and Pat Gerrior, New Bedford’s first female port agent. Both women discussed the rewards and complexities of working in a male-dominated environment during the start of their careers.

Students Alison Frey, Aubrey Ellertson Church, and Patricia Perez also served as panelists and shared their inspiration behind pursuing careers in fisheries science and the benefits of choosing to earn their advanced degrees at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST). All of the panelists are also featured in the Center’s Women’s Work exhibit. 

The discussion, originally recorded as part of the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center’s Women’s Work project, was moderated by Laura Orleans, executive director of the Center. Watch the video.

New Bedford is a shining sea of possibilities

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The Boston Globe

On the Street: Janelle Nanos and Tim Logan (November 10, 2021)

New Bedford is a shining sea of possibilities

The city’s future hinges on the coexistence of its historic fishing industry and the new technologies of wind energy.

A city employee picked up trash on the cobblestoned North Water Street in New Bedford, the onetime whaling capital of the world. DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

The On the Street series looks at the past, present, and future of neighborhoods in Greater Boston.

Check out the video produced by the Boston Globe highlighting the Center.

NEW BEDFORD — Stand here on Leonard’s Wharf, near where the Acushnet River empties into Buzzards Bay, and you’re surrounded by boats with colorful hulls and elaborate rigs. They help power the nation’s most lucrative fishing port, hauling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of scallops, fish, and lobsters from the Atlantic Ocean to be sold worldwide.

Next door, behind a rusty chain-link fence, sits a huge old power plant, long unused. The 29-acre site is one of two on New Bedford’s waterfront that is poised to host the assembly of massive wind turbines that would be shipped out and mounted in the Atlantic Ocean, promising much-needed clean energy for the Northeast.

Whether these two industries — oneages old, the other being birthed on the fly — can coexist in New Bedford harbor and out in the ocean will say a lot about the future of one of the most distinctive places in Eastern Massachusetts, a city that has for most of its 234 years drawn a living from the sea.

“The waterfront has always provided an opportunity for people,” said Laura Orleans, executive director of the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, who has spent a quarter-century telling the stories of New Bedford’s maritime history. “There have been a lot of people from many different cultures who have been very successful making a living on our waterfront.”

Of course, what that success has looked like has changed several times.

In the early to mid-1800s, New Bedford was the capital of the global whale oil industry — “the city that lit the world.” By the 1840s, it was, by some measures, the wealthiest city per capita on the planet. People were attracted to an industry where the only job qualification was a willingness to stand eye-to-eye with a whale from the prow of a rowboat. New Bedford soon established itself as a place that welcomed all comers.

Then came textile mills, and with them a wave of European immigrants that ballooned the population to more than 120,000 by the 1920s. In recent decades, commercial fishing has driven the city’s economy. Scallop fishing, in particular, has been crucial, having recovered from a sharp decline in the early 1990s to become a thriving andstable business.

Today, scallop boats based as far south as the Carolinas come here to sell their catch. The city lands more than $400 million in seafood each year — eight times that of its perhaps-better-known northern cousin in Gloucester, and more than all other East Coast fishing ports combined. Eighty percent of that value comes from scallops.

“When you get outside of Massachusetts, people are startled to learn that New Bedford is the leading fishing port in the US,” said Bob Unger, former editor and associate publisher of the SouthCoast Media Group, who noted that Hollywood movies and reality TV shows have tended to feature other ports. “‘The Perfect Storm’ convinced them it was Gloucester,” he said.

The New Bedford waterfront is lined with more than just boats. An operation of this scope requires fish processors and ice houses to serve the fishing fleet, but also an array of engine and repair shops, fuel providers, and other businesses that can service anyone who’s heading out to sea, including the ships that will spend years building offshore wind turbines.

That maritime industry, along with a deep water port, has put New Bedford at the forefront of a growing offshore wind industry along the North Atlantic coast.

Vineyard Wind plans to start construction next year on 62 turbines — enough to power 400,000 homes — south of Martha’s Vineyard, just 35 miles by sea from New Bedford. Officials hope the $2.3 billion project will be the first of several offshore wind farms to be assembled and serviced from here, and they aim to establish the city as a center of a new industry.

A sculpture of a whale’s tail, or fluke, on display outside the New Bedford Whaling Museum DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

“I think this can have the same impact on New Bedford as other major chapters of our history,” said John Bullard, a former mayor of the city and an Obama-era federal fishing regulator. He now heads the newly formed New Bedford Ocean Cluster, which aims to develop the city’s maritime industries. “We spread the light, and we’re going to do it again,” Bullard said. “That’s the character of this city.”

But offshore, in waters ideal for both fish populations and wind energy, things get a lot more complicated. Figuring out where to site wind turbines so they don’t disrupt fishing grounds is a complex and high-stakes exercise, one that’s never really been tried at this scale before. The structures can be as tall as Boston’s John Hancock Tower and have blades the length of a football field.

Fishermen worry about the impact of wind installations on their dredges and nets — which can in some cases trail for miles behind a boat — and radar, and about whether the wind arrays will shift water temperatures, or change how fish move through the sea. Planners say they’re listening to the concerns, and stress that turbines are typically spread at least a mile apart to aid navigation through the wind fields. But some fishermen worry even the best plans will fall short.

One of them is Eric Hansen, a longtime scallop boat captain and owner whose family has fished the waters off New Bedford for more than 100 years. He serves on the board of the Fisheries Survival Fund, an industry group that helped rebuild the scallop harvest over the last two decades, and the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, which advocates to protect historic fishing grounds. Hansen says he’s not opposed to offshore wind, but he’s hard-pressed to upend a longtime lucrative industry for something so unproven.

“It may all work on a perfect day with perfect conditions,” he said. “But it’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t witnessed the power of the ocean how powerful it actually is. And when you have mountains of water coming at you that will toss you around drastically, well, it’s hard to picture a wind turbine in that environment.”

The granite US Custom House in New Bedford, designed by Robert Mills. DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

Ideally, turbines could be built out slowly, with years to experiment and study how they affect fisheries, said Mike Pol, research director at the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance, a nonprofit jointly overseen by the fishing and offshore wind industries that’s aiming to guide development. But the need for clean energy is so urgent that planners need to move quickly and get it right the first time.

“It’s happening so fast. The [Biden administration’s] goal is 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. It’s not like, ‘Let’s take our time here,’” Pol said. “And yet the ocean is not a very predictable place.”

Complicating matters, New Bedford is just one of numerous port cities angling to house the North Atlantic’s nascent offshore wind industry — including those in states such as New York, where fishing holds far less political sway than it does in Massachusetts and where elected officials are eager to embrace offshore wind.

That has New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell lobbying both to protect his city’s signature industry and carve out its place in a new one.

On one hand, he’s lobbying Beacon Hill to change the way Massachusetts awards offshore wind contracts, to help draw more lucrative bids that would boost the industry’s investment in New Bedford. On the other, he’s urging Washington to protect lucrative fishing grounds off the coast of New Jersey, where shifts of even a few miles in the location of wind farms could make a huge difference to New Bedford scallop boats.

Navigating these uncharted political waters isn’t easy, he admits. But he believes it’s essential to the city’s future.

“We’ve been committed to the proposition that these two industries can coexist successfully here in New Bedford and out at sea,” he said. “We see ourselves as a mediator between the two.”

A landscaper blew leaves off cobblestones near the Fifty Fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Plaza in New Bedford. DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

For Mitchell, the arrival of offshore wind represents something bigger — a chance to build on the success New Bedford has achieved over the last decade. In his 10 years in office, the former federal prosecutor has put quality-of-life issues front and center, bringing down New Bedford’s crime rate by 39 percent in the past four years, and boosting its high school graduation rate 30 points, to 88 percent.

Offshore wind means jobs, he said, the kind that can give students a reason to stay and can help to sustain New Bedford’s immigrant and working-class residents.

“It’s important to pull people in” to the city’s emerging economy, he said. To accomplish that, officials have partnered with the region’s vocational high school on training programs and helped Bristol Community College launch a National Offshore Wind Institute.

Still, some say it’s difficult to connect residents — particularly in immigrant neighborhoods — with the opportunities in new industries such as offshore wind.

Gail Fortes, who heads the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts, works with people patching together two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet. Many are single mothers. To them, she said, the sort of opportunities being touted in wind or fishing can feel out of reach.

Alex Ortiz, a crew member of Never Enough, removed lobster traps from the fishing vessel onto the pier at the New Bedford waterfront. DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

“I don’t think people know or understand about wind, or that the fishing industry isn’t just about these boats that go out for days at a time,” she said. “You have to get on the Portuguese radio stations, and Spanish-speaking, and reach into the Cape Verdean community.”

For Bullard, the economy of New Bedford has always been strongest when the city has opened its arms to newcomers. Charting a new course is what New Bedford has always done best, he said.

“The story of this city comes down to one word,” Bullard said. “We’re a seaport. We send our people to sea. We always have, and I hope we always will.”

Read more about New Bedford and explore the full On the Street series.

Working Women: Davis’ Photos Of Women In Fishing Industry Included In New Bedford Exhibit

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The Cape Cod Chronicle

Doreen Legett (October 6, 2021)

 Karen Johnson on the flats.  SHAREEN DAVIS PHOTO (photo: Shareen Davis )

Karen Johnson on the flats.  SHAREEN DAVIS PHOTO

Peggi Joseph, long dark hair tied in a ponytail, blue sweatshirt and matching rubber gloves peeking out of orange Grundens, makes quick work of packing thousands of pounds of haddock. 

Her image was captured by photographer Shareen Davis at Stage Harbor as Joseph moved hefty haddock into totes beside a bin of ice.

Joseph seems unaware of the camera. Davis catches her intent on doing a job she loves.

The picture is part of a new exhibit, “Women’s Work: At Sea, On Shore, At Home, In the Community,” at the New Bedford Heritage Museum, designed to shine light on many roles women play in commercial fishing communities.

Laura Orleans, director of the museum, said she has been thinking of putting together the exhibit ever since she realized that not enough people know “women are involved in every aspect of the fishing industry, and have been historically involved, it’s not just a new thing.”

Visitors meet women who work on deck as fishermen and scientists, on shore as welders, processors and gear makers, who own businesses and boats, who advocate on behalf of the fishing industry. And they will hear about the value and importance of the industry; more than 60 photos are accompanied by oral histories. 

A caption with Joseph’s image lets viewers know she was packing 3,500 pounds of fish for auction in the dead of winter and wore sneakers instead of boots for better traction. 

“I like being outside and hands-on and as soon as I could leave retail I did. A fisherman at the dock once asked me, you’re not gonna pack out that boat by yourself, are you? I said, yup, just watch me,” reads the caption.  

The exhibit, which is up until March, explores topics ranging from “What Do You Call a Woman Who Fishes?” to “Women in Myths and Marketing.”

A section on pioneers covers historic figures such as Fish Mary (Mary Stanley), a lumper on the New Bedford docks in the 1960s and Linda Despres, the first female chief scientist on bottom trawl surveys in 1975 with the Northeast Science Center in Woods Hole.

The exhibit covers fishing communities in Rhode Island and Maine as well as Massachusetts, with images from Markham Starr and Phillip Mello as well as Davis.

Davis’ contributions include shellfishermen Karen Johnson, Sandra Liska and Coralie Peltier; the late Rosemarie Denn, who owned Cape Fishermen Supply with her husband Bob; Melanie Mason, who worked as a baiter; Shannon Eldredge, who owns a trap fishing company; Morgan Eldredge, who works as a fisherman and with her sister, Shannon, at Fishermen’s Partnership Support Services; and Sandy Collingwood, who made and mended gillnets.

Davis, a member of the Chatham Select Board, comes from a fishing family, married a fisherman, has daughters who fish (the Eldredges mentioned above), has been a fisherman herself and is a fisheries advocate.  

She has been photographing people in the fisheries for close to 40 years, and as she chose images, some more than a decade old, and spoke to the women again, “their voices spoke a lot to my experience,” she said.

“Women’s voices aren’t really heard. Women have played an integral part for hundreds of years,” Davis said. 

Women can be found in every part of the industry, but that has always been challenging; just think about the myth that women are bad luck on a boat, Davis said.

So in addition to the challenges of the wind and tide, stormy seas and capricious markets, women have an extra hurdle. Overcoming that can take extra strength. 

“They exude their confidence and capability,” Davis said. “They are on equal par with anybody who participates in harvesting the sea.”

The exhibit speaks to normalcy – women have been there all along – but also to gender equality and diversity.

“I am hoping it brings a bigger perspective to the narrative of people who fish and harvest seafood,” Davis said.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Joseph agreed. “It was kind of an honor to be recognized in that way. It was one of my favorite jobs.” 

Joseph ran a shop that bought from a number of fishermen so she would go down in a big box truck to unload boats, pack fish and take it where it needed to go. She met a cross-section of interesting people and had to know how histamines affect tuna as well as how to quickly bait hundreds of hooks, among other things. 

Joseph added that those in the fisheries should be thankful to Davis, who has thrown herself into advocacy, but who also captures the stories of everyday people.

“She has really brought (the industry) to light,” Joseph said. 

Davis said she plans to keep at it.

“There are more stories to tell,” she said.  

The exhibit is expected to be online by November. For more information,  visit fishingheritagecenter.org/programs/calendar/.

Doreen Leggett is the community journalist for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. She can be contacted at doreen@capecodfishermen.org. 

SMAST & New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center partner to educate local students

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SMAST News

Adrienne Wartts (September 30, 2021)

SMAST students volunteer their time to engage 4th-graders in marine science activities related to fisheries oceanography and climate science during the “Something Fishy Camp.”

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

“It is exciting to see the passion of the next generation of potential leaders in the marine science world. It is important to foster relationships within the community and to serve as an example of the potential pathways into fisheries and marine science.”

Andie Painten, SMAST graduate student

Mitchelle Chinonyerem Agonsi and Andie Painten, graduate students at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST), recently volunteered their time to engage with 4th-grade students during the “Something Fishy Camp” organized by the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. The goal of the partnership is to engage the New Bedford community in the research that takes place at SMAST and to teach youth about the exciting world of fisheries in their hometown.

“My role was to talk with the students about how I started studying marine science and what it is like to be a graduate student,” says Andie Painten, who is focusing her research on black sea bass and their relationship with offshore wind farms. During the camp, the students were introduced to lab equipment used at SMAST, including cameras, lights, a fish measuring board, and tagged scallop shells, which provided them with hands-on experience as if they were out in the field performing a survey.  

Mitchelle, who is pursuing her degree in Marine Science and Technology (Physical Oceanography), worked with additional volunteers to increase awareness of the ongoing research in SMAST. “We introduced what we do which varies from the study of scallops, lobsters, and starfishes to the use of marine instrumentation, such as the ocean gliders. The students were out on a boat trip prior to our team being there, so they were very eager to learn more.”

“Because I work with ocean gliders, I introduced them to the basis of ocean gliders, and the students were very fascinated about it with very interesting questions,” says Mitchelle. “The ocean glider is an automated underwater vehicle that typically measures the ocean’s physical and biological properties such as temperature and chlorophyll-a fluorescence by moving horizontally as it records in a saw-tooth trajectory at about 1km per hour (or 25cm per second), through a programmed depth range. It then surfaces every 2-3 hours to report its location and transmit recorded high-resolution data to the satellites,” she explains. “The oceanographer can then retrieve the data in real-time for further analysis.”

The students also learned about fish tagging: how fishes are monitored closely by marking them for a variety of scientific purposes such as monitoring fish distribution, behavioral patterns, migration techniques, and circulation patterns. “We then taught the students how to take records while at sea. They were excited to practice using the fish measurement instrument and taking down records on waterproof paper,” says Mitchelle.

Andie says volunteering at the Something Fishy Camp was a valuable experience and a good reminder of how in a community like New Bedford, fisheries science and management impacts the community as a whole, and it is important to stay involved. “The campers even taught me a few facts about their favorite fish,” she says. “It is exciting to see the passion of the next generation of potential leaders in the marine science world. It is important to foster relationships within the community and to serve as an example of the potential pathways into fisheries and marine science, especially as a female in an often male-dominated field. That it is feasible, and to show the campers that you can follow your passion and be successful.”

Mitchelle notes one thing that gives her a sense of purpose is lending a helping hand by volunteering. “I am always excited to let people know about what I study especially because it’s not a very popular field of study whereas the more you teach, the more it sticks. I envisioned that it will be a great opportunity to impact positively and encourage the young students to take up careers in marine science.”

She adds, “Science needs to be communicated to everyone both young and old, professional or non-professional, science-oriented or not. Science helps us understand our world and how it affects us and so we need to communicate our science. Participating in the Something Fishy Camp was indeed a pleasurable experience for me. It not only provided an avenue to communicate my science but it gave an assurance that somewhere in the world lies a place for everyone to give back a wholesome contribution even in the little acts of volunteering.”

‘More Than a Job’ offers a look into New Bedford fishing industry

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The Herald News

July 1, 2021

NEW BEDFORD —  New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center has recently celebrated the opening of its new, permanent exhibit, “More than a Job: Work and Community in New Bedford’s Commercial Fishing Industry.”

In this file photo, Laura Orleans, director, tests out one of the many new audio content stations being installed inside of the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center on Bethel Street in New Bedford, which is undergoing major renovations including the new exhibit, "More than a Job: Work and Community in New Bedford's Commercial Fishing Industry."
In this file photo, Laura Orleans, director, tests out one of the many new audio content stations being installed inside of the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center on Bethel Street in New Bedford, which is undergoing major renovations including the new exhibit, “More than a Job: Work and Community in New Bedford’s Commercial Fishing Industry.” Peter Pereira/ The Standard-Times
In this Standard Times file photo from earlier this spring, Laura Orleans, director, looks on as a new one-third scale scallop dredge manufactured by Blue Fleet Welding Services is installed at the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center.
In this Standard Times file photo from earlier this spring, Laura Orleans, director, looks on as a new one-third scale scallop dredge manufactured by Blue Fleet Welding Services is installed at the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. Peter Pereira/ The Standard-Times

The center held a grand opening of the new exhibit and marked its fifth anniversary on Saturday, June 26, with a free public event. The celebration at 38 Bethel St. included demonstrations of industry skills, kids’ activities, and live music by the Rum Soaked Crooks. A speaking program featured remarks delivered by Congressman Bill Keating, state Rep. Tony Cabral, and Brian Boyles, executive director of Mass Humanities.

“The nation’s most valuable port has long deserved an institution dedicated to telling its story,” said Executive Director Laura Orleans. “The Fishing Heritage Center fills that void, and our new exhibit offers visitors the sort of immersive experience usually reserved for larger museums.”

“More Than a Job” provides visitors with an introduction to the New Bedford fishing industry. Visitors can explore the changing nature of work and community through displays that present labor history, immigration and sustainability. They can also experience a working deck, which includes a scallop dredge, galley table and bunks. Guests can view historic and contemporary images and footage, and listen to more than sixty audio clips sharing the many voices of the fishing community:

“My husband, he didn’t tell me this, but he fell overboard while they were out to sea. They brought up the net, and he was in it. . . Now those kind of things our husbands didn’t tell us, because they didn’t want us to be upset over it.” -Barbara Calnan, fisherman’s wife

This quote is one from among the bounty of audio excerpts presented in “More Than a Job,” mined from the center’s extensive collection of audio recordings to create five listening stations and an interactive touch screen.

In 2004, the Working Waterfront Festival began documenting the history and experiences of the fishing community through interviews and facilitated discussions with industry members. When the Fishing Heritage Center opened its doors in 2016, this rich collection became the foundation for the Center’s archive. Since then, the center has doubled the size of its digital collection, engaging in several significant projects.

Funding for “More than a Job: Work and Community in New Bedford’s Commercial Fishing Industry” is provided by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and significant support from Bristol County Savings Bank. Major in-kind support for this exhibit was provided by Fairhaven Shipyard and Blue Fleet Welding.

About New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center

Over the past five years, the Fishing Heritage Center has welcomed thousands of visitors, hosted hundreds of local students, recorded dozens of oral history interviews, created numerous exhibits, and hosted a wide variety of educational programs. See the center’s website for updates on this event, www.fishingheritagecenter.org.

Located in the nation’s most valuable fishing port, New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is dedicated to preserving and presenting the story of the commercial fishing industry past, present, and future through exhibits, programs, and archives. The center is open Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Beginning July 1, admission is $5; $4 for seniors and students; and free for members and children under 12. To schedule a small group tour of the new exhibit or to learn more about the exhibit, contact programs@fishingheritagecenter.org or call 508-993-8894.

Sea Changes at New Bedford’s Fishing Heritage Center

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1420 WBSM

Phil Paleologos (June 25, 2021)

Five years ago, tourists visiting our historic fishing port would just walk past the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center on Bethel Street without blinking an eye. Executive Director Laura Orleans and her staff were just setting sail to start the center, with the idea of telling the action-packed story of New Bedford’s fishing industry with a year-round facility.

Yet considering how much the non-profit center has grown in these first five years, they knew they were going to need a bigger boat.

On Saturday, June 26, the public is invited to a free fifth anniversary celebration and the grand opening of the new permanent exhibit, More Than A Job: Work and Community in New Bedford’s Fishing Industry.

“‘More than a job’ is a phrase a lot of people in the industry say to describe what they do. Commercial fishing is a culture, a community, a way of life. Our new exhibit speaks to that idea,” Orleans said. “The exhibit explores themes including labor history, immigration, sustainability, and the changing nature of work and community.”

The progress made in the last five years has been noticeable. There are five listening stations, interactive touch screens, historic footage, and more than 60 audio clips that share the many voices of the local fishing community. Kids will enjoy exploring a replica working wheel house and deck, fish hold, galley tables and bunks, all designed and built at no charge by Fairhaven Shipyard. A one-third scale scallop dredge, built by Blue Fleet Welding also at no charge, provides the centerpiece for the display.

“We thought we’d give people who didn’t know too much about the fishing industry a firsthand, interactive exhibit,” Orleans said.

Courtesy Phil Mello

This time around, I seriously doubt that anyone will just walk past the center without stopping in to see the shucking demo, net mending, model making, kids activities and maritime music by Rum Soaked Crooks, to mention a few of the planned activities, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If the new exhibit is the bait that lures you to the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, I guarantee, you’ll be hooked and will want to soak up all you can from the interactive exhibits and displays that use technology to make the most of the center’s limited space.

As Orleans likes to tell people, “For those who remember the Working Waterfront Festival, we’ve bottled it in a building.”

Working the Waterfront: New Bedford, Massachusetts

Library of Congress website

Working the Waterfront: New Bedford, Massachusetts

In 2016, the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center (NBFHC) received an Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center to document workers on the New Bedford, Massachusetts, waterfront for the Occupational Folklife Project (OFP). Folklorist and NBFHC Executive Director Laura Orleans, anthropologists Madeleine Hall-Arber and Corinn Williams, and oral historian Fred Calabretta recorded oral histories with 58 workers involved in diverse fishing-related trades on the New Bedford waterfront. Documented trades range from fish packers to net makers, navigational electronic technicians to marine divers, and maritime upholsterers to ice house workers. The interviews are supplemented by striking workplace portraits taken by New Bedford photographer Phillip Mello, who was also interviewed about his job as general manager at Bergie’s Seafood, and who has been taking photographs of his fellow waterfront workers since 1975.

Go to Working the Waterfront: New Bedford, Massachusetts collection items 

America Works Podcasts

Library of Congress website

About America Works

America WorksAmerica Works, an ongoing podcast series from the Library of Congress, features the voices of contemporary workers from throughout the United States talking about their lives, their workplaces, and their on-the-job experiences. Drawn from hundreds of longer oral history interviews collected by fieldworkers for the American Folklife Center’s Occupational Folklife Project (OFP), America Works is a testament to the wisdom, wit, knowledge, and dedication of today’s working Americans. These engaging oral histories, which have are preserved in the American Folklife Center’s archive, are enriching and expanding America’s historical record.

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America Works

Title: Bernardo “Bernie” Piña, Fresh Produce Salesman. Nogales, Arizona
Speakers: Bernardo “Bernie” Piña, Nic Hartmann, Nancy Groce
Date: June 3, 2021
Running Time: 10:25
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Title: Mike Peabody, Garbage Man and Recycling. Barre, Vermont
Speakers: Mike Peabody, Virginia Nickerson, Nancy Groce
Date: May 27, 2021
Running Time: 10:25
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Title: Jim Mercer, Commercial Marine Diver. New Bedford, Massachusetts
Speakers: Jim Mercer, Madeline Hall-Arber, Nancy Groce
Date: May 20, 2021
Running Time: 9:28
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Title: Kim Spicer, Electrician and Wire-Women. Queens, New York
Speakers: Kim Spicer, Jaime Lopez, Setare Arashloo, Nancy Groce
Date: May 13, 2021
Running Time: 10:16
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Title: Jennifer Sgro, Nurse Practitioner, Night Ministry Bus. Chicago, Illinois
Speakers: Jennifer Sgro, Margaret Miles, Nancy Groce
Date: May 6, 2021
Running Time: 9:54
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Title: James Hensley, Port Pilot. Houston, Texas
Speakers: Captain James Hensley, Betsy Peterson, Nancy Groce
Date: April 29, 2021
Running Time: 13:50
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Title: Heather Campbell Hill, Funeral Director. Raleigh, North Carolina
Speakers: Heather Campbell Hill, Sarah Bryan, Nancy Groce
Date: April 22, 2021
Running Time: 10:40
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Title: Sarah Fortin, Fish Net Maker. New Bedford, Massachusetts
Speakers: Sarah Fortin, Fred Calabretta, Nancy Groce
Date: April 15, 2021
Running Time: 9:15
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Title: Patrick Bovenzi, Race Track Worker and Horse Identifier. Tampa Bay, Florida
Speakers: Patrick Bovenzi, Ellen McHale, Nancy Groce
Date: October 8, 2020
Running Time: 9:56
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Title: Sharon Sisson, Iron Worker. Chicago, Illinois
Speakers: Sharon Sisson, Richard Sisson, Bucky Halker, Nancy Groce
Date: October 1, 2020
Running Time: 8:31
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Title: Shuly Amsel, Wig Maker. Brooklyn, New York
Speakers: Shuly Amsel, Candacy Taylor, Nancy Groce
Date: September 24, 2020
Running Time: 7:42
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Title: Richard Bludworth, Shipyard Owner. Houston, Texas
Speakers: Richard Bludworth, Pat Jasper, Nancy Groce
Date: September 17, 2020
Running Time: 9:40
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Title: Joyce Vegar, Home Health Care Worker. Coos County, Oregon
Speakers: Joyce Vegar, Nathan Moore, Donald Stacy, Nancy Groce
Date: September 10, 2020
Running Time: 9:15
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Title: Greg Vaught, Gold Mine Worker. Elko, Nevada
Speakers: Greg Vaught, Meg Glaser, Charlie Seemann, Nancy Groce
Date: September 3, 2020
Running Time: 9:21
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Title: Jeff Hafler, Hair Stylist. Wonder Valley, California
Speakers: Jeff Hafler, Candacy Taylor, Nancy Groce
Date: September 3, 2020
Running Time: 8:26
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Title: Barbara Miller Byrd, Circus Owner. Hugo, Oklahoma
Speakers: Barbara Miller Byrd, Tanya D. Finchum, Juliana Nykolaiszyn, Nancy Groce
Date: September 3, 2020
Running Time: 9:39
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Title: America Works – Series Preview
Speakers: Nancy Groce, various
Date: August 27, 2020
Running Time: 1:01
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More Than a Job: New Bedford’s work and community

Read the article online here.

National Fisherman

Jessica Hathaway (April 27, 2021)

 

As parts of our communities begin to reopen, the fishing industry is a reminder that essential services never stopped running in the year since businesses and even public services in the United States began to shutter their doors.

The crown jewel of Massachusetts’ fishing industry, New Bedford’s history is inexorably tied to its working waterfront. This month, the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center will reopen to the public with a new exhibit — More than a Job: Work and Community in New Bedford’s Fishing Industry.

“Fishing industry workers often describe what they do as ‘more than a job,’” said Laura Orleans, the center’s executive director. “We are excited to share our new permanent exhibit with the public, giving visitors a chance to hear directly from the fishing community by sharing dozens of audio clips from oral histories conducted over the past two decades. We are grateful to many in the industry for supporting the project and for sharing their stories, skills, time, and knowledge.”

New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center exhibit More Than a Job: Work and Community opened April 15, 2021. Phil Mello photo
New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center exhibit More Than a Job: Work and Community opened April 15, 2021. Phil Mello photo

This exhibit is designed to offer visitors an introduction to the workings of the fishing industry and explore industry-related topics like labor history, immigration, sustainability, and the changing nature of work and community.

The exhibit features a replica working deck, scallop dredge, galley table, bunks, historic and contemporary images and footage, and more than 60 audio clips sharing the many voices of the local fishing community.

Located in the nation’s most valuable fishing port, the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is dedicated to preserving and presenting the story of the commercial fishing industry’s past, present, and future through exhibits, programs, and archives.

Beginning April 15, the center is open Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. To schedule a small group tour of the new exhibit or to learn more about the exhibit, contact programs@fishingheritagecenter.org or call (508) 993-8894.

Funding for this exhibit is provided by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and significant support from Bristol County Savings Bank. Major in-kind support for this exhibit was provided by Fairhaven Shipyard and Blue Fleet Welding. 

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