Voices from the West Coast
Oral histories of marine resource users preserved in an online archive.
Coastal communities have historically had a close connection to marine resources. Many coastal communities were established due to the available marine resources that supported livelihoods. Coastal communities are changing their relationship to marine resources. Some are expanding from fishing and transportation to tourism opportunities. Vacation and retirement homes are the focus of some coastal communities, altering the relationship between people and marine resources. As these changes progress, the people in the communities are changing as well.
While residents may reside in coastal communities year-round, and still depend on commercial fisheries, others may be seasonal residents or visitors who utilize resources such as beaches and tourism destinations.
As the use of marine resources for livelihood changes, such as commercial and recreational fishing activities, a potential loss of local knowledge is evident. This project aims to collect, document, and preserve knowledge connected to these activities by collecting oral histories.
We are interested in hearing people's unique views and their history of working in coastal communities. For example: How did people get started in commercial fishing? How long have they fished? What fisheries are important, and why? Do entire families fish; has this changed? What are some great memories? Oral history can help us answer these questions.
Voices from the West Coast
'Voices from the West Coast' was developed to support Voices Oral History Archive. Efforts to collect oral histories in fishing communities on the East Coast started in 2003 with NOAA Fisheries Local Fisheries Knowledge Pilot Project. Over time, hundreds of oral histories from the East and Gulf Coasts have been collected and made available on the Voices from the Fisheries website. However, fewer contributions from the West Coast are evident. This project seeks to contribute oral histories from the West Coast.
What is oral history?
The definition of an oral history varies depending on multiple factors, including the discipline that is utilizing the methodology. These disciplines include anthropology, sociology, history, folklore, and cultural geography, to name a few. One definition from the Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interview Guide states an oral history is "a process of collecting, usually using a recorded interview, recollections, accounts, and personal experience narratives of individuals to expand the historical record of a place, event, person, or cultural group." Donald A. Ritchie explains in Doing Oral History (2003), "…oral history collects memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interview."
For more information on oral histories, please refer to the following organizations:
Everyone has their history, perceptions, perspectives, and knowledge they've gained through their experiences. Individual stories contribute significantly to our understanding of a subject, such as commercial fishing. Many stories together build a strong foundation for history. We aim to preserve the knowledge of individuals so that we can learn from them.
While our goals are to preserve local history and local knowledge, we also aim to make this available to other interested parties. The information collected can inform local community members, students, museums, as well as assist researchers.
Many people can learn a lot of information from what participants have to tell.
We are interested in hearing from people currently living and working or have lived and worked in coastal communities. Our initial focus is on those who have participated in fishing in coastal communities. Still, we would indeed be interested in other aspects of coastal community life related to marine and environmental topics.
While we are interested in learning directly from fishermen, we would also like to hear from fishermen's wives and other family members as well as other individuals involved in fishing, such as processors, net suppliers, and others in the industry.
Project partners located in various communities in Washington and Oregon help us collect oral histories. Interested people can contact either the project manager, Suzanne Russell, or one of the project partners in the closest community to your location. A project partner will contact participants to schedule a meeting.
We collect oral histories via audio recordings, video recordings, or both. We select a place that is relatively quiet and will help ensure a good quality recording. A project partner will meet with the participants and conduct an oral history interview.
What happens with the information?
Once collected, we transcribe the audio/video recording and check it for audio quality. We then upload the audio/video and transcription to the Voices from the Fisheries Database. We may upload all or only a portion of the audio/video depending on the recording's quality. We will make it available to all interested parties.
Principal Investigator for all states:
NOAA/NWFSC/Human Dimensions Team
2725 Montlake Blvd. East,
Seattle, WA 98112