Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Avenida

Acushnet is the name of a rural town just to the east and north of New Bedford. It is also the name of an avenue, often known simply as "The Avenue." That would be "A Avenida" in Portuguese, the most prominent of several languages one can hear in this vibrant neighborhood -- perhaps the most diverse locale in one of the most diverse cities in the most diverse country on the planet. In other words, a must-visit place for geographers.

So on August 29, 2017, I decided to take a bit of a stroll, to explore a half-mile or so of a street that I had mainly viewed from my car windows. (NOT that there is anything wrong with that -- geographers can learn a lot from a "windshield survey," which is our professional name for "driving around.")

Here is some of what I found.

Calling Acushnet Avenue "The Ave" is not just something my local friends say. It is a recognized place, and people are proud of it.
The role of the arts -- especially public art such as this mural -- in social and economic development will be a central theme of the course.
The outward-facing parts of homes and businesses comprise what geographers call the vernacular landscape, and at times they can provide insight into what people consider most important about their own identities.
To prepare for a special occasion, one does not go to the mall.
I have not yet been to this café, but it is now on my list -- the Sunflower Cafe. In the Germanic languages, the flower is named for the sun. In the Romance languages, it is named for turning with the sun.
Some of the most successful businesses in Central America are fried-chicken restaurants, some of which have expanded to migrant communities in the United States. I have not yet figured out whether the connection in this case is one of ownership or one of symbolic reference.
Although its Lusophone connections are best known, Central American and other parts of the world are well represented in New Bedford's neighborhoods. 
In many ways, communities are defined in very local institutions such as hairdressers and barbershops.
This city of migrants is full of symbolism that exhibits pride in places of origin and places of destination alike, as on this sign marking the approach to Madeira Field.
A friend who grew up in another part of the city ALWAYS brings something from this case if she is coming to dinner at our house.

This one is a bit of a trick -- it is not on Acushnet Avenue, nor is it in New Bedford. This is White Factory, on the Acushnet River in Acushnet, less than a mile from the eponymous Avenue. 
Students in the New Bedford Fortnight class will have opportunities to find much more in this and other neighborhoods throughout the 24 square miles of the Whaling City.



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Learning from Old Maps

Image: Knowol, which sells prints of this map
and hosts many other fascinating maps and images
Click to enlarge
During the New Bedford Fortnight class, we will spend most of our time in direct experience of the present-day city, its cultural landscape, communities, and institutions. It is a city with a rich history, however, and we will be studying that from a geographic perspective.

Among my favorite tools for this kind of work are very detailed Sanborn fire insurance maps, which we will be looking at in some detail, both at the New Bedford Public Library and through the digital version to which BSU's Maxwell Library subscribes. 

I learned of the 1871 map shown above from a friend who has spent his whole life (so far) in the city and who will be part of this course. The map is stylistically similar to the Sanborn maps, but it is at a smaller scale that will be useful for our initial look at historic changes in the city and in adjacent areas of Fairhaven. The bridge connecting the two, for example, does not follow its current trajectory, nor does a broad boulevard separate downtown New Bedford from its working waterfront.

Monday, May 1, 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.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Crime Reporting and New Media

The Groundwork blog recently reported on a decision by New Bedford Guide -- a popular local Facebook page -- to stop using local crime stories as click-bait. A lively discussion of this decision has already ensued.

Crime, the perceptions of crime, and the relationships between both and economic development will be important topics in our New Bedford Fortnight course.

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.