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Documenting Maritime Folklife: An Introductory Guide

Preface

Sponge fishermen in Nassau, Bahama Islands, ca. 1900 Sponge fishermen in Nassau, Bahama Islands, ca. 1900, from Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, detail of photo #031477.

Documenting Maritime Folklife has two main purposes: to promote understanding of maritime cultural heritage--the body of distinctive traditional knowledge found wherever groups of people live near oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams; and to provide laymen with a basic guide for the identification and documentation of common maritime traditions. The information it contains may be helpful to nonprofessional researchers and community groups contemplating the exploration of their own maritime cultural heritage. Professionals in fields such as marine biology, fisheries extension, community planning, and education who are trying to understand the cultural aspects of maritime activities may also find it useful. This work might also provide guidance to students and lay people working on projects under the direction of professional folklorists, anthropologists, historians, preservationists, cultural geographers, and other specialists in cultural studies.

In addition to examples of common maritime traditions and the methods that can be used to document them, Documenting Maritime Folklife includes suggestions for projects to disseminate collected information, and appendixes containing: examples of fieldnotes, a step-by-step description of the documentation of a small boat's hull shape, and sample forms for collecting and organizing data and obtaining informants' consent. A bibliography of key publications supplements the resources provided here.

Documenting Maritime Folklife modestly seeks to open the door to maritime culture and approaches to its documentation. It does not pretend to be a comprehensive survey of the innumerable manifestations of maritime culture and the theories and documentation methods cultural investigators have used to record and analyze them. Likewise, a thorough discussion of contemporary issues pertaining to maritime culture is beyond the scope of this publication. Readers who seek to explore the depth and breadth of the literature on maritime culture will find important works listed in the bibliography.

Work on Documenting Maritime Folklife commenced in July 1986, when I tested documentation techniques in the fishing village of Mayport, on the northeast coast of Florida. Following two months of fieldwork in Mayport, I wrote the first draft. It was then subjected to further testing by a team of folklorists from the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs and an anthropologist from the Florida Department of Community Affairs during two months of fieldwork in the communities of Apalachicola and Eastpoint, on Florida's Gulf Coast. Although the bulk of the examples of maritime traditions used here are taken from Florida, the techniques for documenting cultural resources can be applied and adapted to many other maritime settings.

Many people assisted in the development of this publication, and, although space does not permit me to name them all individually, my gratitude is offered to everyone who helped.

I am grateful to Ormond Loomis, chief of the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs, for developing the initial concept for this publication. Alan Jabbour and Peter T. Bartis, of the American Folklife Center, refined that concept and guided it to completion. James Hardin, the center's editor, charted a safe passage through the tricky waters of the government publishing process with customary adroitness.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation provided a grant that enabled the project to obtain the consulting services of maritime folklife experts Paula J. Johnson and Janet C. Gilmore. They in turn offered innumerable suggestions to sharpen the focus of this guide.

The staffs of the American Folklife Center and the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs provided considerable assistance. In particular, Carl Fleischhauer at the center offered valuable advice about fieldwork techniques, ethics, and cataloging field data, and assisted with the selection of illustrations, and Yvonne Bryant at the bureau labored long and hard to type the various drafts.

Fieldwork in the Apalachicola area was conducted by Barbara Beauchamp, Ormond Loomis, and Nancy Nusz, all of the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs, and by Marcus Hepburn of the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

I am grateful to the many residents of the two study areas who generously took the time of talk with me and other project fieldworkers about their maritime heritage, including Cletus Anderson, Kristen Anderson, Deborah Beard, Dennis Butler, Costa Buzier, George Chapel, Dale Davis, Lloyd Davis, Steve Davis, Virginia Duggar, Angelo Fichera, Joe Fichera, Ken Folsom, Royce Hodge, Charles House, Robert Ingle, George Kirvin, Alice and Grady Leavins, John Lee, Nannette Lolley, Woody Miley, Isabel Nichols, Stan Norred, Christo Poloronis, Gloria and Sonny Polous, Willie Polous, Corky Richards, Arthur Ross, Lawrence Sangaray, Lawrence Scarabin, Bud Seymour, Walter Shell, Judy Stokowski-Hall, Willie Speed, Anthony Taranto, Linda Thompson, Andrew Valkuchuk, Ralph Varnes, Louie Van Vleet, Carla Watson, George Wefing, and Donnie Wilson of Apalachicola; Corena and Loys Cain, Buford Golden, James Hewitt, Bernard Miller, Xuripha Miller, Inez and Frank "Sonny Boy" Segree, and Bobby Shiver of Eastpoint; Joan Bouington of St. George Island; Eddie Baker, Albert Gufford, Donald Herrin, Mat Roland, and Raymond Singleton of Mayport; Joann and Charles Herrin, Thomas Herrin, and Camilla "Mickie" McRae of Jacksonville; John Gavagan of Atlantic Beach; and Geraldine Margerum of Neptune Beach.

Charlie Nevells, of Stonington, Maine, and Mack Novack, a native of Eastpoint, Florida, kindly granted permission to quote the lyrics of songs they wrote about commercial fishing.

Joe Halusky, extension agent with the Florida Sea Grant Program, provided helpful information about the commercial and recreational fisheries of northeastern Florida. Helen Cooper Floyd and Hilton Floyd, natives of Mayport who now reside in Pascagoula, Mississippi, supplied information and photographs concerning Mayport.

This project has benefited from the advice of many individuals who attended meetings to review preliminary drafts this publication, including Scott Andree, Florida Sea Grant Program; William Derr, Florida Inland Navigation District; Beth Drabyk, Organized Fishermen of Florida; Rusty Fleetwood, Coastal Heritage Society; Roberta Hammond, Florida Department of Community Affairs; Ann Henderson, Florida Endowment for the Humanities; Lynn Hickerson, National Trust for Historic Preservation; Linda Lampl, T.A. Herbert & Associates; Jim Miller, Bureau of Archaeological Research, Florida Department of State; Joan Morris, Florida Photographic Archives, Florida Department of State; Charles Olsen, Florida Trust for Historic Preservation; J. Anthony Paredes, Florida State University; Charles Thomas, Bureau of Marketing, Florida Department of Natural Resources; William Thurston, Bureau of Historic Preservation, Florida Department of State; Patricia Wickman, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State. Folklorists Robert S. McCarl, Jr., and Gary Stanton forwarded insightful comments about the manuscript. Any errors contained in this publication are, of course, solely my responsibility.

Finally, I wish to thank my wife, LeeEllen Friedland, for considerable support with all aspects of the project, including fieldwork, cataloging of field data, and editorial assistance.

 

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