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Center Launches Labor History Project

New Bedford, MA—The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is excited to announce a major research initiative focusing on the history of organized labor at sea and onshore from the 1930s to the present. The resulting documentation will become part of the Center’s growing archive and will provide the foundation for the creation of exhibits, public programs, and publications.  Funding for this project is provided through grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Mass Humanities.

The history and role of unions and other industry and community organizations will be explored through a combination of archival research and oral history interviews. The 1985-86 strike between fishermen and boat owners, which effectively ended organized labor on the waterfront, will be a major focus.  In addition, active and retired workers, boat owners and business owners from every sector of the industry will be interviewed in order to catalogue each of the jobs associated with the industry both at sea and on shore. These interviews will provide an understanding of how working conditions, the labor force, and the community have changed over time. The project team will also conduct interviews with elected officials, attorneys, journalists, fishing family members, and others to understand and view this history from a wide range of perspectives.

The Center will present several community conversations in order to engage the fishing community and the general public in exploring this history.  The first of these programs, Remembering the Strike of 1985-86, will take place on Friday, November 17th at 7:00 p.m. at the National Park Theater located at 33 William Street, New Bedford. The evening will include a viewing of television coverage from the period, as well as a slide show of archival images. Community members are invited to attend and share their memories of these events.  This program is jointly presented by Spinner Publications, the UMass Dartmouth Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park,  and the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center.

The Center encourages any community members who would like to participate in the project by sharing their memories, photographs, documents, or other artifacts to call the Center at 508-993-8894 or email Director, Laura Orleans at

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is dedicated to telling the story of the fishing industry past, present and future through exhibits, programs, and archives.



38 Bethel Street
New Bedford, MA 02740

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

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