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Occupational Folklife: Resources in the American Folklife Center

This research guide focuses on activities such as fieldwork, interpretation, and programming related to expressive culture of occupational groups, individual workers and the workplace as it is documented in the collections of the Library of Congress.


Madeleine Hall-Arber, interviewer. Natalie Ameral, 2016-11-15. New Bedford, Massachusetts. Working the waterfront, New Bedford, Massachusetts. 2016-2017. Archie Green Fellows Project. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

Documentation of occupational folklife creates research materials about expressive culture of occupational groups, individual workers and the workplace. Ethnographers are especially concerned with documenting the acquisition and transmission of work-related knowledge and skill, the social and cultural contexts of work and occupation and also the customs and narratives that confirm membership or status within a work group.

Occupational Folklife Project

In the interview relating to this photograph, Natalie Ameral describes the daily routine of a port sampler and the challenges she faces being only one of seven port samplers for the region in her company, as well as the only female. She has been working with AIS since she graduated in 2015 and is now switching over to a new position working for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which is located in the Jamestown, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

In 2016, the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center (NBFHC) received an Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center to document workers on the New Bedford, Massachusetts, waterfront for the Occupational Folklife Project (OFP). Folklorist and NBFHC Executive Director Laura Orleans, anthropologists Madeleine Hall-Arber and Corinn Williams, and oral historian Fred Calabretta recorded oral histories with 58 workers involved in diverse fishing-related trades on the New Bedford waterfront. Documented trades range from fish packers to net makers, navigational electronic technicians to marine divers, and maritime upholsterers to ice house workers. The interviews are supplemented by striking workplace portraits taken by New Bedford photographer Phillip Mello, who was also interviewed about his job as general manager at Bergie’s Seafood, and who has been taking photographs of his fellow waterfront workers since 1975.

The following guide offers general research strategies for use of the American Folklife Center collections.