In 2012, the international media company Diversified Communications donated over 15,000 photographs to Penobscot Marine Museum from its National Fisherman magazine archives. This collection, the largest of its kind, documents the U. S. fishing industry from the 1950’s to the 1990’s, providing a unique detailed visual survey of commercial fishing in this country during a time when the increasing industrialization of fishing had enormous and often devastating consequences for individual fishermen and for fishing stock. John K. Bullard, the Regional Administrator for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), calls the National Fisherman collection of “…great national historical significance because it documents a critical period in the history of U.S. fishing.” In 2014 the museum received grant funding to digitize the collection. The first 5000 photographs are now available to the public online at www.penobscotmarinemuseum.org. All 15,000 images will be online by 2017.
The National Fisherman collection includes photographs of all aspects of the fishing industry. There are photographs of Greenpeace activists protesting foreign whaling, of fishing strikes in the Alaskan salmon fisheries, of tired East Coast draggers, foreign and domestic factory ships, and Alaskan halibut trawlers. There are photographs of the people of the industry; fishermen hauling their catch, fish processors in factories, and angry fishermen in meetings with industry regulators. National Fisherman photographed fishing vessels being built at sea, people working at fish piers, fish markets, and fishing industry trade shows. Now for the first time an international audience of scholars, historians, film makers, educators, curators, ecologists, policy makers and the general public will all have access to this wealth of visual documentation.
National Fisherman is the only national commercial fishing publication in the U.S. Over the course of their history, which can be traced back to a 1921 fish report in Belfast, Maine’s newspaper Republican Journal, they amassed what became the largest collection of 20th century photographs documenting the fishing industry. The decision to donate their vast photography archive to Penobscot Marine Museum was made by parent company Diversified Communications when National Fisherman’s photo submissions switched to digital.
Penobscot Marine Museum is extremely grateful to the following for their support: this project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and by The Windhover Foundation. This project has also been financed (in part) with Federal funds from the National Maritime Heritage program, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. However, the contents and opinions contained herein do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Department of the Interior.