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PMM rolls out ‘National Fisherman’ project

May 06, 2019
Courtesy of: Penobscot Marine Museum Boatswain's Mate Stanley Metcalf from the Rockland, Maine Coast Guard station struggles to prep this casualty of a 1971 winter gale for towing. Once tethered, she started to sink and the rescue boat cut the line; she met her end after being dashed up against the granite breakwater in outer Rockland harbor.

SEARSPORT — After three years of processing the photo archives of National Fisherman magazine, Penobscot Marine Museum has reached its goal: a comprehensive collection of high quality digital photos, along with the carefully preserved originals. This collection presents a visual timeline of American fisheries, where many contributors managed to capture the drama, grit, expertise, and resourcefulness that characterize the industry. The scope of this resource has few rivals, as there were nearly 25,000 photographs to be digitized and cataloged. To view these images, visit

This final rollout consists largely of 35mm negatives. Some of these images have been published previously on the museum’s collections website from silver gelatin prints. The difference here is that seeing the entire roll of film gives a more comprehensive picture of a given series. One theme that stands out most are the shots of people at work: hauling traps and nets, repairing trawlers, building aluminum hulls, setting Coast Guard buoys.

Maine’s own National Fisherman magazine has always been a trade publication, with a readership that falls inside a particular sphere of interest and activity. At the same time, the publication’s cultural importance shouldn’t be underestimated. The National Fisherman photographic archive, entrusted to the museum in 2012 for long-term preservation, tells a critical story, the rise of industrial fishing and its consequences for fish and fishermen. This was never the intent of the publishers; after all, National Fisherman is a periodical, always intended to keep fish harvesters and the interested public up to date about emerging practices and technologies, changes in regulation, and to relate the experiences of men and women who make their living at sea and in the fisheries. That being the case, the magazine was on the ground, more accurately, at sea, during these crucial decades when technology changed the fishing industry.

This project was funded in part by the National Maritime Heritage program, administered by the National Park Service, and by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

About Penobscot Marine Museum

Penobscot Marine Museum brings Maine’s maritime history to life on a campus of beautiful historic buildings in the charming seacoast village of Searsport. 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, boat models, historic Maine boats, a fisheries exhibit and an heirloom garden. The museum has more than 200,000 historic photographs, and a maritime history research library. Museum offices and research library are open year round. Exhibits are open seven days a week, Memorial Day weekend through the third Sunday in October. PMM’s Visitors Center is located at 40 E. Main St. For more information, call 548-2529 or visit

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Christine Dunkle can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 108; or

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