I have a certain sentiment for books, magazines and the printed page. As it turns out, so do fishermen and their families, especially when the topic is fishing and the maritime life.

So when I got the opportunity to attend “Salted, Pickled and Smoked: Preserving the Cultural Heritage of New Bedford’s Fishing Community,” an exhibit of fishing community artifacts at the New Bedford Free Library, I was all over the assignment, despite a long drive to see it.

If you have never been to the library there, it’s a grand old New England building, complete with huge marble steps and columns out front. It’s the sort of keystone structure you would expect in historic Massachusetts. But the real history is in the book stacks, and on this night, in the stories generations of New Bedford fishermen have opened up to share with the public.

On the top floor, a bit of fishing history was on exhibit, all donated temporarily from local families. Scale models, dredged up artifacts, rope balls woven at sea, and of course photos all had their place in display cases. Although the tone certainly has a visitor looking back, especially in the tributes to the long-gone wooden shipyards, there was something very contemporary about the stories presented. Perhaps because New Bedford is still a bustling fishing port compared to many other working waterfront communities in America where the curtain has fallen, and fishermen today can relate directly to the waters these forerunners have worked, the dredges they have hoisted, and the catch they have harvested.

In fact, a short walk from the library illustrates just how strongly locals feel about their fishing heritage. The recently opened New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center sits in a handsome brick building adjacent to the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park.

The museum is just getting its sea legs in its new building. With plenty of space inside for exhibits, it’s a growing resource that aims to educate the public about the working waterfront, as well as preserve and document stories and artifacts from the fishing community.

The museum and library teamed up for a brilliant exhibit. Their collaboration shows how two organizations — with input from the industry — can strengthen the community. There’s so much more to see, I will be making another trip during the holidays with my family.

The exhibit opened on Nov. 10 and runs through Jan. 7, 2017.




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