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Todd Harvey, Collection Specialist, American Folklife Center
Created: May 24, 2021
Last Updated: May 24, 2021
The American Folklife Center (AFC) produces guides for the purpose of directing users to resources and collections in support of research on a range of topics connected to folklife, cultural heritage, and ethnographic documentation.
This guide is part of a series of topical guides focusing on "areas of distinction" within AFC collections, as articulated in the Center's Collection Policy Statement. These topical guides are intended to be curated access points for AFC's rich resources, rather than comprehensive of definitive listings.
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.
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.