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Historical fishing photos available online

Monday, January 9th 2017

Historical fishing photos available online

After many months of carefully digitizing and cataloging legacy photographs from the archives of National Fisherman, the Penobscot Marine Museum has added 5,000 National Fisherman photographs to its online database.

Published in Maine, National Fisherman has been an essential publication for the fishing industry for decades. This nationally focused periodical keeps fish harvesters, and the interested public, up to date about emerging practices and technologies, changes in regulation, and relates the experiences of men and women who make their living at sea and in the fisheries. The magazine was on the ground—more accurately, at sea—during crucial decades when technology changed fishing, as it did so many other arenas of human activity, beyond recognition.

The magazine's photographic archive was entrusted to PMM in 2012 for long-term preservation. The newly digitized images double the number of images in the museum's online National Fisherman collection. These images tell a critical story—the rise of industrial fishing and its consequences for fish and fishermen. National Fisherman is also a story of entrepreneurial vision—it’s a consolidation a handful of earlier, regional fishing papers, notably Atlantic Fisherman, whose photographs also are in the collection of Penobscot Marine Museum. Many of those images also have been digitized and are available for viewing online.

Most viewers wouldn’t fail to be intrigued by these scenes of rugged characters maneuvering heavy trawl nets, balancing on scows heaped with oysters, scenes of crews being rescued from foundering vessels, countless vignettes of people at work—repairing hulls, building traps of wire or wood (depending on the era), cleaning congealed oil off of beaches after tanker wrecks, and pilots navigating narrow channels.

PMM’s website features a browsing tool designed to help visitors explore the collection. To peruse these new images, go to

This project has been financed (in part) with Federal funds from the National Maritime Heritage program (administered by the National Park Service) and from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Penobscot Marine Museum brings Maine maritime history to life in twelve historic buildings in Searsport, Maine. Exhibits include hands-on activities for children and adults, as well as a ship captain's house, marine paintings, scrimshaw, 19th century Chinese and Japanese pottery, paintings and textiles, historic Maine boats, a fisheries exhibit, and an heirloom vegetable garden. The museum has over 200,000 historic photographs, and a maritime history research library.

The museum is open seven days a week, Memorial Day weekend through the third weekend in October. For more information go to or call the Visitors Center 207-548-0334 or Administrative Offices at 207-548-2529.

Photo credits: Bryan Hitchcock, Milton Moore, and Jack Stark

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