Spinner Publications, Inc. is a community-based, non-profit publishing house based in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Our mission is to record and promote the history and culture of the cities and towns of southeastern New England. We do this primarily through the publication of books. We collect oral histories and create documentary, photographic and illustrative accounts that tell the story of the individual, the city, the land; stories of families and their work. We seek to promote the humanities and arts of the region and collaboration among artists to present local history in an accurate, dramatic and entertaining way. Spinner’s aim is to bring out the story of individuals, to show how people’s lives have impacted the community, and to portray the culture as it is realized in the lives of community members.
Spinner Publications was founded in 1981 when Donna Huse, a professor at UMass Dartmouth, collaborated with Joseph Thomas, a freelance photographer, to produce a series of publications that would tell the story of immigrants and neighborhoods, of farms and factories, whalers and fishermen. Their shared vision struck a chord in the community and since then Spinner has published over 40 major book titles and numerous small publications, employing hundreds of local artists, writers, photographers, historians and educators. As the area’s only independent, non-profit publishing house, we are proud that our name is synonymous in the region with the telling of history.
Spinner has also developed and implemented curriculum materials for grades 5-12. These include an oral history magazine project in which students interview parents or elders and employ experiential learning techniques; a fully developed, multi-level Portuguese language curriculum; and a cross-disciplinary, multimedia program built around Moby-Dick that includes literature, film, poetry, and curriculum materials.
Another important dimension of Spinner Publications is the Spinner Archives which houses a photographic collection of more than one million images. This important asset represents one of the largest repositories of photographs of southeastern New England. Many images can be viewed online and are readily available to the general public.
The many awards won by Spinner are testimony to the organization’s excellence. Twice Spinner was awarded a Certificate of Commendation from the American Association of State and Local History for “excellence in the preservation, interpretation and distribution of local and regional history.” Spinner has received the Fontera Award from the Labor Education Center at UMass Dartmouth, recognizing our “commitment to educating all people, especially through the lessons of the past,” the Benjamin Franklin Award for design, and several Independent Publisher Book Awards.
Spinner has received commendations from the governor, the State House and Senate: for our contribution to the “African Experience in Massachusetts” exhibit, for our work to “record and preserve the heritage and culture of the working women and men…of the textile industry in New Bedford and southeastern Massachusetts,” and for our contributions to state and local history.
In 1997, the MCC awarded the Commonwealth Award— the state’s highest cultural achievement award—to publisher Joseph Thomas in the humanities category “for dedication to excellence in illuminating and celebrating the heritage of Southeastern Massachusetts through a series of high-quality books and publications.”
We are indebted to many people for our survival. In particular, ongoing support has been generously granted by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Mass Humanities, the Henry H. Crapo Foundation, and the New Bedford Arts Council.
Spinner Publications is grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities and Mass Humanities for their ongoing support. Funding from the CARES Act and SHARP Grants For COVID Recovery allow Spinner to continue current project-based activities and financially support staff and independent contractors.