The sea continues to be important for the livelihoods of North Sea people, but the roles of maritime people are constantly changing. Some traditional occupations have gone or are in the process of vanishing, others are changing and new occupations are emerging. The traditional fisheries have gradually been replaced by an industrial fishing fleet, and modern shipping operates within a global economy where shipbuilding is outsourced, and the wharves have been closed down. 

The maritime world is vast. It is inhabited by many iconic characters: the captain, the sailor, the harbour pilot and the fisherman. They are all well-known figures, both in art and popular culture, and in the everyday life of harbour cities and coastal communities.

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But what about all the other people using the sea as their main means of resources, income, culture and leisure? The herring lassies, the dockworkers, the purser, the shipbuilders, the fishermen’s wives processing the catch, the ship’s cook and the catering personnel, the offshore operators, and the cruise tourist; are they not also maritime people?  We think they are, and by including them in the exhibition we aim to show the diversity of people and labour within the maritime world of the North Sea countries. This selection focuses mainly on traditional working situations, but also on some of the social and cultural aspects of maritime life.

The exhibition has been produced by The Association of North Sea Cities – ANSC, made up of maritime museums from countries around the North Sea: Belgium, Denmark, England, The Faeroe Islands, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Scotland and Sweden. They have all contributed with examples from their photographic collections. These images illustrate that the work done by maritime people unites us across geo-political boundaries.


The working group:

Anne Tove Austbø, Stavanger Maritime Museum

Gry Bang-Andersen, Stavanger Maritime Museum

Meredith Greiling, Aberdeen Maritime Museum

Morten Hahn-Pedersen, The Fisheries and Maritime Museum Esbjerg