Common Ground: Community Stories - New Bedford Whaling Museum
The logo for Common Ground. A mosaic of different peoples faces throughout the ages.

What's Your Story

Common Ground: Community Stories is an ambitious oral history project and exhibition to create a full picture of the Greater New Bedford region and residents through story collection. A key goal is to give voice to community members. By gathering individual stories, Common Ground presents a diverse, inclusive, and celebratory accounting of the lived experiences of South Coast residents.

Common Ground: Community Stories

Opened: January 26, 2023

Closed: August 6, 2023

Our region is vibrant because of our diverse, shared histories. The SouthCoast is enriched by the active tribal presence of Wampanoag people, historic settlement by Quaker, French, Polish, and Italian communities, and more recent Azorean, Cape Verdean, Central American, and Caribbean immigration, among many others. There are common threads throughout the region’s history. Stories of settlement, migration, and diversity form the heartbeat of the SouthCoast of Massachusetts.

Founded in 1903 as the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, the New Bedford Whaling Museum has spent over 100 years collecting and interpreting the history of our region. Common Ground: Community Stories is a community-focused oral history project and exhibition. Storytellers talk about their ties to the region. By gathering individual stories, Common Ground presents a diverse, inclusive, celebratory accounting of the lived experiences of SouthCoast residents (past and present) – and, in the process, helps us find “common ground.”

Of the hundreds of stories collected so far, individuals focus on identity and place and describe their personal history and ties to their community. These are powerful (and sometimes mundane) personal narratives, that carry great import for the storyteller and comprise local history, as it was and is lived. Listening to these personal stories connects each storyteller and listener within a greater whole. Once collected, stories are archived and organized within fifteen categories. These are: women’s lives, family stories, community activism, the environment, urban development, stories of immigration, neighborhoods, arts & culture, celebrations, local business, maritime, education, sports, religion, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through this project, the Museum is committed to preserving Common Ground stories and making them accessible for researchers, descendants, and community members for generations to come.


Common Ground is made possible through major funding by the William M. Wood Foundation, with additional support from Mass Humanities, and individual supporters listed below. As of January 2022, project partners include SouthCoast Artist Index, 20mi2, Our Lady of the Assumption, the New Bedford Free Public Library, Joseph Abboud Manufacturing, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven, the Westport Free Public Library, Hong Meas, the SouthCoast LGBTQ+ Network, and the AME Bethel Church.

Patricia A. & Mark S. Allen
Howe Allen & Timothy Evans
Thomas P. Barry & Nancy Shanik
Christina M. Bascom
Jackie & John Beauregard
Lybi & Mark Bittner
Susan S. Brenninkmeyer
Anne Broholm
Karyn & Ben Campbell
Ginette Castro & Michael Oleksak
Breana & Benjamin Cole
Paula Cordeiro & David O'Brien
Cynthia & Douglas Crocker II

Emily & Horace Field
Clare Healy Foley & Paul Foley
Jennifer Forbes
Bettye & Robert Freeman
Tally & John N. Garfield, Jr.
Sharon & David Giblin
Vanessa & John Gralton
Denise & Charles Hixon
Joy & Carl Horstmann
Margaret Jackson
Patricia & John M. Kalisz
Margot & George Kalkanis
Martha & Michael Keating

Frances F. Levin
Shena Lowe
Doris & John Ludes
Anita & Willitts Mendonca
Tina & Joseph Nauman
Heather Parsons & Andrew Kotsatos
Mark Rasmussen
Katherine Read & William Sommerville
Cathy & Henry Roberts
Tricia & Chris Schade
Sloan M. & Wick Simmons