Documenting the Hidden Heritage of Maine's Coastal Fisheries


This project will catalog Maine fishery and fishing community materials hidden in small historical societies and museums in northern New England. Fishing first attracted settlers to the Gulf of Maine. After overfishing depleted cod stocks near Boston, mid-17th c. fishermen turned to the Maine coast. There, fishing remained relatively sustainable for almost 300 years. Today, Maine's rich coastal fishing grounds have become lobster feedlots. Fewer vessels now fish for cod from all New England than fished from Frenchman's Bay alone 150 years ago. These fisheries remained undocumented until over 1,500 19th c. New England fishing logs were discovered at NARA Waltham in 2001. Linking these logs with ancillary documents allowed social and scientific discoveries that encouraged the search for more sources. Few documents exist from the early 1700s; most will likely range from 1800 to 1930. Historians seek documentation about the social, economic and environmental history of coastal communities; marine scientists are looking for data that reveal changes to marine resources; climate scientists are seeking detailed documentation of weather history; coastal residents are seeking a renewed sense of community identity and economic stability. This project will contribute to all of these agendas by revealing and enhancing access to records generated by fisheries and fishing communities.


Cataloging Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded

Year Added



Gulf of Maine Cod Project and other grant-funded programs


  • Betty Schopmeyer

Collection Size

500 linear feet

Date Range

1800 - 1930

Geographic Scope

New Hampshire and Maine coastlines to Canada.