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.


Some Things Fishy
July 11, 2019 – September 1, 2019

Inspired by a visit to a tiny island off the coast of Nova Scotia some forty years ago, Fairhaven artist Paul Helgesen’s work is a mixture of whimsy and realism, some of it serious, some of it ridiculous, and most of it nautical.  Pieces are created from rough sawn lumber and augmented with found pieces of copper, brass, rusted steel, and shells.

Eventually Paul and his wife bought a summer home on the island and a fishing boat.  He says, “life on the island is like going back in time.  The year-round residents are lobstermen who live in a tiny community with their boats, dirt roads, a two-room school house, and a little ferry that goes to and from the mainland. This way of life is my inspiration for Some Things Fishy.”

Helgesen has been involved in the arts all his life.  His parents were practicing artists, and were both graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design.  He was Design Director for the Pfalzgraff Dinnerware Company for many years, collaborating with the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City to design the “America” dinnerware collection.  He and his wife are avid collectors of antiques including furniture, toy cars, folk art, and Jugtown pottery.