June 29, 2016

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is officially open

By Morgan O'Hanlon and Kathryn Baltes

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.” 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.