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New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is officially open

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MIT Sea Grant

Morgan O’Hanlon and Kathryn Baltes (June 29, 2016)

Families, friends and colleagues gathered this past Saturday to celebrate the grand opening of the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. The Fishing Heritage Center is dedicated to telling the story of the New Bedford fishing industry past, present, and future. The opening was a cause for celebration from all members of the fishing community, many of whom have worked for years to make this center reality. New Bedford is the number one fishing port in the country, and yet, until now there was no one place to celebrate the traditions and showcase current fishing techniques. Don’t confuse this center for a museum, the word center was chosen deliberately to celebrate the vitality of current fishing efforts. Time and again speakers remarked upon how important that distinction was to them personally and to the fishing community as a whole. As made clear from the enthusiasm of the audience, New Bedford’s fishing community is alive and well. After the opening remarks, the center’s executive director, Laura Orleans, standing side by side with center’s board members, including MIT Sea Grant anthropologist Madeleine Hall-Arber, cut the blue ribbon with an enthusiastic swing of her arm. Amongst boisterous applause the center officially opened to visitors and a crowd of eager patrons shuffled through the door. The center is a bright, open room with large windows and high ceilings, carefully adorned by nets and fishing gear, giving it a clean and welcoming quality. Panels detailing different elements of the fishing industry guided viewers throughout the room. Each piece told its own story, but also took on greater meaning as part its larger role within the community. Madeleine has been involved throughout the entire planning process, co-authoring grants for exhibits, even painting walls and hanging displays as everything came together. The center was gifted an official resolution, “The city council of New Bedford MA hereby offers its sincerest congratulations to the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center in recognition of the celebration of the ribbon cutting and the grand opening of the Fishing Heritage Center’s commitment to fishing industry past, present and future. The entire citizenry extends its very best wishes on this memorable occasion and offer its hope for continues good fortune.Œ The resolution was signed by counselor Carney and counselor Lopes and given with the good wishes of the entire New Bedford City Counsel. The pride amongst the community members was apparent as they gazed at room’s exhibitions. As time goes on, the heritage center hopes to ensure the sucess of the fishing industry in New Bedford by educating the community members about the significance of both the economic and cultural values of this defining New Bedford industry.

New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center

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Fisherman’s Voice

June 2016. Volume 21, No. 6

One block from the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the Heritage Center is located at 38 Bethel Street. The recently renovated building is located on a cobblestone street in the historic waterfront district. Fishermen’s Voice photo

New Bedford’s Fishing Heritage Center will hold a grand opening celebration on Saturday, June 25. The center is dedicated to preserving and presenting the story of the fishing industry past, present and future through exhibits, programs and archives. The Fishing Heritage Center is at 38 Bethel St., New Bedford, one block from the New Bedford Whaling Museum in the historic waterfront district of New Bedford.

During the Commercial Marine Expo April 27-28, a reception sponsored by the R.A. Mitchell Co. was held at the new Heritage Center. About 150 people attended, helping to raise $4,500 for the Heritage Center from a raffle of donated photographs, crafts, books and art work.

The center’s director, Laura Orleans, said the center will continue to do fund-raising for the center, which included the restoration of a historic building on the New Bedford waterfront—a historic commercial fishing district that dates back to the 1600s in what is known as “The Whaling City,” a name that derives from the city being the most important whaling port in the world in the 19th century.

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center received a $20,000 Maritime Heritage Grant. The grant will be used to fund the creation of a 15-minute orientation film, tentatively titled Resilience: The Story of New Bedford’s Fishing Industry. The center will also be working with Big Ocean Media to produce a film that will present an overview of the history and development of New Bedford’s commercial fishing industry from 1900 to the present, exploring “life at sea, life on shore,” and “sustaining the resource.” The center expects to complete the film in time for the 2017 summer season.

New Bedford Heritage Center reception and fundraiser where $4,500 was raised on April 27, 2016. Fishermen’s Voice photo


New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center leases new space

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National Fisherman

Samuel Hill (April 6, 2016)

2016 0406 ITI NEwHeritageSpace
Members of the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center board pose in front of their new space.


The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center recently announced its plans to lease space at 38 Bethel Street, starting April 1.

Located in the heart of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the 3000 square foot space will accommodate changing exhibits, public programs, school groups, archives, and community gatherings. Exhibits are under development with a public opening planned for late June.

“The commercial fishing community deserves a place to preserve and present its stories and artifacts, share its skills and knowledge, and educate the public about its rich traditions, heritage, and contemporary existence. We are excited to provide that opportunity,” said executive director Laura Orleans.

During 2016, the Center will continue to present Dock-u-mentaries, its monthly film/speaker series and Something Fishy, its free summer camp program, in collaboration with the National Park and Whaling History Alliance.

The center is also working in collaboration with UMass Dartmouth, UMass Boston, and the New Bedford Public Library on a year-long initiative to create a digital archive of fishing community history.

To learn more, watch the center’s Facebook page.















Fishing Heritage Center finds a home

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Southcoast Today | The Standard-Times

Steve Urbon (March 13, 2016)

The former AirGas building at 38 Bethel St. in New Bedford will be the new home of the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. Steve Urbon/The Standard-Times/SCMGThe former AirGas building at 38 Bethel St. in New Bedford will be the new home of the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. Steve Urbon/The Standard-Times/SCMG Standard-Times.

NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center has at last found a home, in the very heart of the historic and national park district downtown.

Executive Director Laura Orleans announced that a 3,000-square-foot space at 38 Bethel St., historic and handicap accessible, has been leased for three years starting April 1 from Ben and Deborah Baker.

The space “will accommodate changing exhibits, public programs, school groups, archives and community gatherings,” said the announcement.

The move into the 1880 commercial building ends a quest that began about a year ago after the Heritage Center had a disagreement over how to house the center at the Mariner’s Home, just up the hill and across the street. The Bethel Street property has been vacant for some time after AirGas moved out.

Orleans said that the group has set an ambitious target opening date of late June, just under four months from now.

The Heritage Center was organized to fill a gap in the historical story of New Bedford: that of the history of the commercial fishing industry that replaced whaling. “The commercial fishing community deserves a place to preserve and present its stories and artifacts,” said Orleans.

The task now is to find an exhibit designer who understands the objectives of the center and can create dramatic banners and oversized photographs at a cost the center can afford, Orleans said.

While the exhibits take shape, the center on May 21 is set to conduct “a day of digitization,” otherwise called “Salted, Pickled or Smoked.” People with artifacts including letters and photographs will be invited to bring what they have to the center to be scanned in digitally for permanent storage.

The center in December won a $12,000 grant from the National Endowments for the Humanities.

Orleans said that the group has been actively fund-raising among corporate donors and will soon stage a large fund-raising drive to pay for the center headquarters.

During 2016 the center will continue to present “Dock-u-mentaries,” its monthly film/speaker series and Something Fishy, its free summer camp program, in collaboration with the National Park and Whaling History Alliance. Weekly cruise ship programs and fishermen-led walking tours will be offered during the summer months. A variety of public programs including author readings, talks, occupational demonstrations, and performances will be presented.

Follow Steve Urbon on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT.

‘Something fishy’ in Downtown New Bedford

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SouthCoast Today | The Standard-Times

Carol Kozma (August 13, 2015)

NEW BEDFORD — At camp Thursday, a loud, united, exclamation of “Ewww!” erupted as the smell of fish slowly filled the room at the National Park Visitor Center, and fourth graders gathered together sat down at tables, waiting for the dead yellow fin flounder to be placed in front of them.

But that doesn’t mean the campers weren’t having a blast. Asked how things were going at the aptly named “Something Fishy” summer camp downtown, 9-year old Hector Vega exclaimed, “Awesome!”

As for his favorite part of camp so far, Hector said, “Basically, everything.”

Children at the camp are learning the history of the city’s port, from the whaling days to the present day, said Laura Orleans, of the Working Waterfront Festival.

Orleans partnered with the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park for the free one-week camp for 4th graders, chosen by lottery, with two sessions with a little more than 20 children in each. The camp was made possible through grants from the United Way Summer Fund, Education Foundation and New Bedford Whaling History Alliance among others, she said.

The children visited the Whaling Museum, went aboard a docked scallop boat and more.

Calling the camp an “amazing opportunity,” Orleans added, “few people get a chance to go on a fishing boat.”

On Thursday, the children were learning how scientists tag fish to follow populations and learn where they travel, their behaviors and how they might change.

Crista Bank, a fisheries research technician at the School for Marine and Science Technology (SMAST), first showed students a PowerPoint of the work she does, with videos showing scientists aboard boats tagging the fish and then releasing them.

Then, Bank showed children how to tag a fish, using a stuffed animal fish and a gun, the same kind used to tag clothes, she told the children.

After that, it was their turn. They sat in pairs at tables covered with a plastic sheet and wearing gloves, the yellow fin flounders lying in front of them. Bank made her way from one child to the next, helping them use the gun to tag the fish.

Kendall Kavanaugh, 9, held her t-shirt over her nose while she inspected the fish from a distance.

At the camp, she’s made a T-shirt, dissected a squid, and made ditty boxes (fishermen chests), she said.

Asked what her favorite part of camp was, she said, “It’s very nice to make new friends.”

Follow Carol Kozma on Twitter @CarolKozmaSCT

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