Digitizing New Bedford’s fishing memories

(February 11, 2019)

One of the largest ongoing scanning projects that is almost done, is scanning a collection of over 10,000 slides, prints and negatives from John “Choo Choo” Ryan who photographed fishing vessels sailing out of New Bedford Harbor from 1988 to 2000. Ryan, who passed away in 2009, worked as a diver servicing commercial fishing vessels. Orleans said many of the boats in Ryan’s collection are no longer among the vessels in the harbor and it’s important to capture this part of the city’s vital fishing industry history for future generations.

The box of slides that Demanche is going through this particular Saturday, is on loan from Captain Alan Cass. “It’s time consuming,” Demanche said, because it’s not just scanning, but documenting the history behind the image.

A few months before the center officially opened in June 2016, a scanning day event was held thanks to a Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Volunteer Judy Kearley began scanning for the center right after that event. She had commented to a volunteer at the time that she had some experience scanning and she’s been scanning ever since. Kearley grew up in the fishing industry — her father was Captain Alton “Jog” Wotton who commanded the fishing vessel Linus Eldridge.

It was that first scanning event which “got us thinking that holding regularly scheduled scanning days would allow people in the local fishing community to continue to share their photographs and documents,” Orleans said. The center has since scanned more than 8,500 images and documents (not including the John Ryan and Capt. Cass collections.)