Symposium: The Mariners’ Home and
Seamen’s Bethel – Yesterday and Today

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Seamens Bethel and Mariners Home

Seamen’s Bethel and Mariners’ Home in the
early 20th century. Photo by Joseph S. Martin.

Symposium The Mariners’ Home and Seamen’s Bethel: Yesterday and Today
10 am – 5 pm

Sacred Cod documentary showing and discussion with the director David Abel
6 pm – 8 pm
FREE and open to the public

The Seamen’s Bethel and Mariners’ Home, owned and operated by the Port Society, hold a place of honor in the annals of the rich maritime tradition of New Bedford. These two regional treasures have recently been restored and their histories have been revitalized.

In celebration of their twin restorations, the Whaling Museum curated four exhibitions on the first floor of the Mariners’ Home. Open to the public for the first time, these exhibits pay tribute to the people and stories that enlivened these buildings for more than two centuries.

Attendees were able to delve into history, learn about the people who contributed to these historic institutions, explore modern challenges of the seafaring industry, and get a close-up look at the new exhibitions.

Learn more about the new exhibition The Historic Mariners’ Home here.


Symposium Registration

Members: $25
Non-members: $35

Sacred Cod Documentary RSVP



Location: Seaman’s Bethel, Mariners’ Home, and Whaling Museum

10 am – 11 pm 
The Home of William Rotch Jr.
By Peggi Medeiros, historian and author
Learn about William Rotch Jr.’s early life in New Bedford, the history of his first home (eventually known as the Mariners’ Home), and its history.

11 am – 12 pm          
Melville, New Bedford, and the Silver Screen
By Arthur Motta, Curator of New Bedford and Old Dartmouth History, Whaling Museum
Hear the story of Moby-Dick’s rise in popular culture and New Bedford’s response to the burgeoning international attention it garnered in the mid-20th century. Discover how this attention was the impetus for fostering a community-wide interest in historic preservation.

12 pm – 1 pm                                                
Boxed lunches will be available for purchase or bring your own bagged lunch.

1 pm – 2 pm              
This Worthy Class of our Fellow Men: Sailors and Society in the 19th Century
By Michael P. Dyer, Senior Maritime Historian
In 1830, New Bedford joined the ranks of some of the largest ports in the world acknowledging that sailors needed safe, sober retreats when ashore between voyages. Explore the history of Seamen’s Bethels and Mariners’ Homes, and how these institutions served as safe havens for mariners in busy ports around the world.

2 pm – 3 pm              
Connecting to the Sea, The Past, the Future
By John Bullard, NOAA Fisheries
In the 1970’s, John Bullard, former New Bedford Mayor, organized all of the businesses in the historic district around a shared vision of a working waterfront connected to revitalized historic buildings. Join Bullard as he describes how he works today to maintain the health of the fish stocks that support New Bedford’s waterfront industries.

3 pm – 4 pm              
Modern Challenges and Dangers at Sea
By Don Cuddy, Journalist
Discover the modern dangers that the marine industry face at sea. Recently back from a wintry adventure off the coast of New Jersey, Cuddy will offer personal accounts of the challenges and perils today’s fishermen face.

4 pm – 5 pm              
Tour of the Seamen’s Bethel and Mariners’ Home
Join Fred Toomey, President of the Port Society, for a walking tour of the newly renovated iconic buildings.

5 pm – 6 pm                                                              


Sacred Cod movie poster

6 pm – 8 pm              
Sacred Cod documentary showing

FREE and Open to the Public
Sacred Cod is a feature-length documentary that captures the collapse of the historic cod population in New England, delving into the role of overfishing, the impact of climate change, the effect of government policies on fishermen and the fish, and the prospect of a region built on cod having no cod left to fish. View the Movie Trailer here.

A panel discussion with the film’s director and industry experts followed the movie.


David Abel is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Boston Globe who has covered war, terrorism, and the environment. Abel is the film’s story director, writer, reporter, and producer. His work has also won an Edward R. Murrow Award, the Ernie Pyle Award for human interest storytelling from the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for feature reporting. He began making films as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He produced two films about the Boston Marathon bombings that were broadcast to national and international audiences.

John K. Bullard is the Northeast Regional Manager of NOAA Fisheries and works with coastal states from North Carolina to Maine, two fishery management councils, the fishing industry and other stakeholders to manage federal commercial and recreational fisheries, marine mammals and habitat. Bullard also oversees critical aspects of international fisheries conservation and management in the region. Bullard is the past president of Sea Education Association, former mayor of New Bedford, and former director of NOAA’s Office of Sustainable Development.

Rodney Avila is a New Bedford fisherman, boat owner and captain of 54 years. He has served in many roles with New England Fisheries Management, New Bedford Seafood Co-op and New Bedford Fisherman’s Assistance Center. Rodney knows New Bedford backwards and forwards and has lived the daily challenges of modern fishing.


Additional information about the Seamen’s Bethel and the Mariners’ Home

Now and Then: The Mariners’ Home – Formerly the Rotch House
About the Seamen’s Bethel


Last modified: May 9, 2017