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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892

Photography exhibit at URI examines
‘occupational folklife’ of shellfishing
in Narragansett Bay

Panel discussion about exhibit Feb. 21 at 4 p.m.

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 7, 2003 -- A photography exhibit examining the history and folklore of the shellfishing industry in Narragansett Bay is on display in the URI Library throughout the month of February.

"From Bullrakes to Clambakes: The Occupational Folklife of the Narragansett Bay Fishery" is a traveling exhibit created by the Heritage Harbor Museum featuring contemporary photography of Rhode Island shellfishing by Alexander Caserta, folklife research by state folklorist Michael Bell, and historic photographs and artifacts.

Three people with ties to the shellfishing industry will reflect on the exhibit and lead a discussion on Friday, Feb. 21 at 4 p.m. at the University Club on Upper College Rd. on the URI Kingston Campus. Commentary will be provided by Michael Rice, URI professor of fisheries and aquaculture, Michael McGiveney, president of the Rhode Island Shellfisherman’s Association, and Jackie Sones, a conservation biologist with the Rhode Island Natural History Survey. The discussion is free and open to the public.

"The occupational folklife of quahoggers emerges from the fundamental processes and techniques of their work, which in turn are tied to the physical environment of the Bay," wrote folklorist Bell in the exhibit’s narrative. "This folklife incorporates material culture, such as boats and bullrakes, as well as the techniques associated with its use. Also included are the beliefs and attitudes, verbal art, gestures, and customs that arise from the work situation."

The exhibit focuses not only on the commercial quahogger but also on recreational shellfishermen, buyers, processors, retail shellfish sellers, and restaurants.

"The goal of this wonderful project is to create a permanent record of the folklife of the Narragansett Bay shellfishery," said Peter August, director of the URI Coastal Institute, which is hosting the exhibit with funding from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. "It provides an excellent look at the life of those pursuing this time-honored and tradition-bound occupation, as well as those in related work."

The exhibit can be viewed in the URI Library Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to midnight, Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. to midnight. For more information or to register to attend the Feb. 21 discussion, call the Coastal Institute at 874-6513 or register on-line at

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