Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Look Around the Working Waterfront

While visiting the New Bedford Whaling Museum with my family today, I visited the observation deck for the first time. We have been museum members for a couple years and have lost count of our visits, so we are not sure why we had not stepped out onto this deck before.

I was inspired to record a brief panoramic video, of admittedly poor audio quality. It conveys a bit of New Bedford's grey-day persona, as I scan from the area upstream of the harbor along the Acushnet River, along the waterfront and ultimately toward the hurricane barrier.

I cut off my own first words, which were "New Bedford Fortnight.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Welcome to New Bedford Fortnight

More on this word at Google
GEOG 400: New Bedford Fortnight
Two Weeks in Whaling CIty
Summer 2017  #NBfortnightA Bridgewater State University Geography Course
Open to all -- matriculated and non-degree students alike
BSU students enrolled in Commonwealth Honors are welcome to propose an Honors Contract for this course, but must arrange for it before the course begins.


The sixth-largest city in Massachusetts is an ideal place to explore human and physical geography. Astride the land and the sea, New Bedford is connected by its fishing fleet to the North Atlantic and by its immigrant communities to much of the wider world. It is also increasingly important as a regional center for the visual and performing arts, and it is becoming a place where local, regional, and international artists draw audiences from throughout the region.

New Bedford is the site of a significant experiment in urban revitalization, in which the U.S. Park Service works closely with local institutions for two decades to connect creative economies to social, economic, and environmental challenges. This intensive course will meet in various locations throughout New Bedford each afternoon, drawing on the expertise of local institutions and community leaders as well as geographic field techniques to uncover the complexity of a city that is fostering change.

James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D. -- Professor of Geography
Dr. Hayes-Bohanan has taught at BSU since 1997. He specializes in environmental geography, the geography of Latin America, and the geography of coffee. He has enjoyed leading students on field-based learning experiences throughout New England, as well as Nicaragua, Brazil, Cuba, and Cape Verde. He is a member of the New England & St. Lawrence ValleyGeographical Society and the New Bedford-based Whaling City Rowing, WhalingMuseum, Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, Azorean Maritime Heritage Society, New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association, and Buttonwood Park Zoo. His family resides in both Bridgewater and the town of Fairhaven.
Course will run two consecutive weeks, M-F, 12:30-4:30 each afternoon, with on Thursday evening program required. Dates and details will be posted on this blog as plans are finalized.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Nautical Town

A banker once told me that a loan for a house in New Bedford would be difficult because it is not near the water. Being a geographer, I showed her a map. We did not end up with that house anyway, but continued to enjoy visits to Whaling City.

Recently a friend shared this much earlier (1876) map of New Bedford, which shows that not only is it near the water, but that water is the whole point of New Bedford. It is a kind of lithograph that was common at the time, often used to promote cities by presenting idealized versions of them (see Cities on Stone by John Reps for many great examples).
Click map to enlarge
So these maps may be imperfect records, but they do reveal a lot about nineteenth-century urban places. This one reveals the importance of both manufacturing and nautical trade at the time -- during the overlap between the age of sail and the age of steam. Note that a rather sophisticated draw bridge was already in place (as it is 140 years later), signaling the importance of both rail and sea in the development of the city.

During our New Bedford Fortnight class, we will have the chance to explore this and many other printed maps of the city and its surroundings; today's geography is very much shaped by geographies of the past!

Back to the banker...
A year later, the same banker facilitated a loan for a house in Fairhaven, without checking for its water proximity. Perhaps she knew about views like this one, which I took after a morning row in the harbor shared by these nautical municipalities.
Fairhaven waterfront, December 2016
Foreground: Pope's Island Marina in New Bedford'

Monday, November 14, 2016

Gateway Cities

Massachusetts has 351 cities and towns, the largest and best-known of course being Boston -- sometimes called the Hub of the Universe, and certainly the hub of New England.  Most of the 351 are of similar spatial extent, but populations range from under 1,000 to about 20,000 for the vast majority.

About a dozen of the cities, though, are a bit bigger, and serve as local hubs. These are called Gateway Cities because each is the point of entry for a region of surrounding towns. In terms of cultural activities and economic activities, these gateways are crucial, and they have been the subject of considerable concern in recent years.

A new report from Rockland Trust Bank presents a bit of good news from each of 11 Gateway Cities. Problems persist in all of them, but positive, focused attention seems to be paying off as well. This is the context within which our New Bedford Fortnight learning will take place.

Gateway Cities Update (November 2016)