Winter Harbor Fisheries Oral History Project

Submitted by Natalie Springuel on Wed, 01/03/2018 - 15:30

First person stories about Winter Harbor’s fisheries heritage are now part of the Winter Harbor Historical Society’s audio collection! A multimedia story map about these interviews can be viewed at the Winter Harbor Fisheries Oral History Project.

a photo of several boats docked in a harbor
Some of Winter Harbor’s fishing fleet.
The Winter Harbor Fisheries Oral History Project, conducted in the Fall of 2017, captured the stories, memories, and perspectives of local fishermen and their families, local marine businesses and fellow community members. The focus of the interviews was on the community’s connections to the waters surrounding the Schoodic Peninsula and the larger context of fisheries in Maine. Topics ranged from fishing past and present, getting product to market, changes in the industry and changes in the Winter Harbor region. Fishing is so much more than a job, it is a way of life, and the interviews also explored history, family, boat building, business, and relationships.

The goal of the project was to help the Winter Harbor Historical Society document its fishing and community heritage for future generations. Our hope is that these stories will help future residents, visitors, and decision-makers understand the important role that the sea has played, and will continue to play, in Maine’s coastal communities.

About the people interviewed

A screen capture of the Winter Harbor Oral Fisheries History Project showing the Torrey family photo beside an article
The Torreys are a long-time fishing family in Winter Harbor. Father Dale and adult children Doreen and Phil were interviewed by Teagan White and Vanessa Taylor who compiled this interactive presentation. Photo courtesy of the Winter Harbor Historical Society.
A screen capture of the Winter Harbor Fisheries Oral History project showing a map with an inset displaying information about fishing grounds
The Knowles family was interviewed by Patricio Gallardo and Corina Gribble, who compiled much of the information from their interview into a story map which includes audio clips, photos, and maps reflecting the family’s fishing grounds.

In these stories, you will meet four fishermen and their families (The Torreys, Backmans, Alleys, and Knowles), the managers at the Winter Harbor Lobster Co-op, the founders of DC Air and Seafood, and a local boat builder. Their stories cover the history of Winter Harbor’s diverse fishing heritage, including lobster, urchin, scallops, and the groundfishing days of yore. Many of these same fishermen and their families formed the Winter Harbor Lobster Co-op, which has become a central feature of the town’s economy. Likewise, the business DC Air puts Winter Harbor on the global seafood map. How all this came to be is part of these stories. Winter Harbor has also long been a place where multi-generation fishing families live alongside summer people and tourists visiting the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park. The waterfront is often the place where people meet, and the stories shared by local boat builder John England explore that intersection.

Who is behind the project?

College of the Atlantic student interviewers returned to Winter Harbor in November to share their work with the community. Here, Tea Speek and Val Peacock share what they learned about the lobster industry during their interview with the manager of the Winter Harbor Lobster Co-op.
The project is a collaboration of the Winter Harbor Historical Society, Maine Sea Grant, College of the Atlantic, and the Island Institute. All the interviews were conducted as part of a Fall 2017 College of the Atlantic class called Mapping Ocean Stories. The students in the class (hailing from Maine, New England, the US and also the British Virgin Islands and South America) were trained in the art of conducting oral histories before coming out to meet with community members.

All Winter Harbor interviews were completed on September 28, 2017. The fourteen students were split up into seven teams, each accompanied by a member of the Winter Harbor Historical Society who served as a liaison with the interviewees. In many cases, multiple interviewees were present. In total, the voices of more than 20 community members were captured and more than fifteen hours of audio was recorded on this day. These fishing and marine related stories tell us about Winter Harbor’s history and culture but also about fisheries and changes happening along the Maine coast as a whole.

With thanks to the following people for their support

The students and their teachers are deeply grateful to Diana Young and Pearl Barto of the Winter Harbor Historical Society for their efforts in coordinating the interviews. Diana and Pearl also lined up the Historical Society board members to help connect the students and the interviewees. This was a lot of logistics, and without Diana and Pearl, this project could not have happened.

Most important, we are grateful to all the interviewees, for their time, stories, good humor and willingness to help a group of college students learn about their industry and heritage. Thank you. Your stories are inspiring.

Where can you get more information?

All oral histories recorded during this project (and their transcriptions) are archived at the Winter Harbor Historical Society. The class also produced an online story collection about this project, which was presented to the Winter Harbor community on November 9, 2017, and can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/winterharbororalhistory2017

For more information, please contact the Winter Harbor Historical Society at winterharborhistory@gmail.com or Natalie Springuel, Maine Sea Grant at College of the Atlantic at nspringuel@coa.edu.