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July 27, 2014

kudos Affiliates! August 2014

Great news from Affiliateland!  Bravo to all!

FUNDING

The National Civil War Museum (Harrisburg, PA) received a $5,000 donation from the Hall Foundation to support educational programming. The Hall Foundation is the title sponsor of the new exhibit “In the Hands of the Enemy: The Captivity, Exchange & Parole of Prisoners of War,” that highlights the brutal conditions of prisoner of war camps, Confederate and Union. The exhibit will have rare artifacts from the National Civil War Museum’s collection on display, and information panels will address and explain the conditions of the camps and daily prisoner life.

The Hawai`i State Legislature approved $500,000 in State Grant-in-Aid funding toward the new Island Heritage Gallery exhibit at the Lyman Museum (Hilo, HI).  The new exhibit will explore a historical timeline of the many people, cultures, events, and ideas that left their mark on Hawai`i Island and contributed to the rich, diverse mosaic of modern Hawai`i.

The Hall Family Foundation has donated $4 million to help fund capital improvement projects at Union Station Kansas City (Kansas City, MO). The funding will be used to make improvements to Science City as well as the development of a pedestrian bridge and a new lower-level entrance.

Two Affiliates recently received Museum Grants for African American History and Culture (AAHC) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS):

- Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture (Baltimore, MD) Award Amount: $69,674

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture will hire a curatorial graduate student intern, create a postdoctoral fellowship in African American history, and establish a professional development fund that will allow staff at all levels to take advantage of training programs relevant to their work as museum professionals.

- American Jazz Museum (Kansas City, MO) Award Amount: $133,050

The American Jazz Museum will hire a registrar to enhance the accessibility of the museum’s collections and create four semester-long paid internship positions focusing on collections and education.

The Ellen Noël Art Museum (Odessa, TX) received a grant from the Junior League of Odessa for the “Little Free Library”, a decorative receptacle and will be filled with books for children and young adults to “take a book, leave a book.”  In addition, the Ellen Noel Art Museum has received a $20,000 grant from National Endowment for the Arts for their innovative research in the 3D printing lab meant to assist the visually impaired.

GAR Foundation distributed awards to teams of Ohio educators through its annual Educator Initiative Grant program. The awards support teacher-initiated, classroom-based projects and methods that demonstrate gains in student achievement and include the following affiliates:

  • National Inventors Hall of Fame (Akron, OH) STEM Middle School, $9,500, for “STEM E5d.”
  • Akron Public Schools, National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School, $4,999, for “Survivability of an Impossible Situation.”
  • Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland, OH) $10,000 for Hale Farm & Village’s Adopt-a-School Program at Leggett Elementary.
  • Western Reserve Historical Society, $5,000 for Hale Farm & Village’s Wetmore Barn Preservation.

Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA) announced that the Massachusetts budget for 2015 includes $2 million funding for the restoration of Mayflower II, a replica of the original ship that brought the Pilgrims to Massachusetts.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA) received a $50,000 award from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation  to enhance two current art exhibits: the photography of “Distant Echoes: Black Farmers in America,” and the sculpture of “Syd Carpenter: More Places of Our Own.” The Knight-supported programming, dubbed “Beyond Sustenance,” will encompass interactive storytelling, art-making, community dining, and workshops centered on African-American traditions in farming, cooking and more.

Mystic Seaport and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center (Mystic, Mashantucket, CT) received a $30,095 grant from Connecticut Humanities to support a project called Connecticut Indian Whalers: Work, Community, and Life at Sea.  The project features digital, exhibit and program offerings designed to raise school and public awareness about the men of color from Connecticut who labored on 19th century whaling ships, in particular Native American men whose work experience was strongly intertwined with their social and kinship networks.

Staten Island City Council allocated $3.7 million to Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden for building renovations.

ACHIEVEMENTS & RECOGNITION

The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced that North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh, NC) was one of 10 recipients of the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community.

Charlene Donchez Mowers, executive director of Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites (Bethlehem, PA), received the Strategic Partner Award from the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce.  Historic Bethlehem has recently been designated a National Historic Landmark site.

The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) proudly announced the winners of the 69th annual Leadership in History Awards, the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. Below are the Affiliate recipients for the 2014 Awards:

Conner Prairie (Fishers, IN) has been chosen by FlipKey Vacation Rental as one of its “Top Family Attractions Worth Traveling For.”

The Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point state park (Pioneer, LA) have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This prestigious designation is a global recognition of the site’s outstanding universal value.

PA Museums announced that the Senator John Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh, PA) received the President’s Award for its national award-winning exhibit From Slavery to Freedom.


LEADERSHIP

The Board of the Western Reserve Historical Society announced that Kelly Falcone-Hall has been selected to be the new CEO. Falcone-Hall had been serving as interim CEO during the selection process.

 

April 28, 2014

kudos Affiliates! for May 2014

Congratulations Affiliates on your spring accomplishments!

FUNDINGbcm

Birthplace of Country Music Museum (Bristol, TN) announced a $100,000 gift by Bank of Tennessee as part of the museum’s “Name Your Seat” fundraising campaign.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a partnership with Mystic Seaport (Mystic, CT) to support the upcoming journey of the Charles W. Morgan, which will sail the New England coast this summer to promote conservation strategies. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries will work with the museum to develop science and outreach activities around the voyage.

Russell Ebeid, a Michigan businessman and philanthropist has made a $2-million bequest to the Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, MI) to endow the museum’s community archive. Ebeid’s gift will support oral histories, photographs, artifacts, books, newspapers and ephemera that highlight Arab-American contributions and places their immigrant experience within the larger context of American history.

The National Endowment for the Arts announced it’s awarding of $74.85 million in grants for the second half of the fiscal year for a wide variety of projects, from the avant-garde to traditional folk art including the following Affiliate projects:

To support Free Summer Sundays, a multidisciplinary program featuring Native American visual and performing artists. Economically disadvantaged residents will receive free admission to the museum on Sundays.

To support the publication and promotion of the journal “Ninth Letter,” as well as a chapbook and issues on a forthcoming iPad app. Each digital edition is centered around a theme; past themes include Midwestern literature, women’s writing, and international literature in translation.

To support the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival, a one-day indoor and outdoor festival that will include Ramsey Lewis, Geri Allen and Arturo Sandoval.

 

ACHIEVEMENTS and RECOGNITION

Rendering of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in downtown Miami

Rendering of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in downtown Miami

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science (Miami, FL) received a Britweek Business Innovation Award for Innovation in Sustainability by the British Consulate-General, Florida and UK Trade and Investment for the new museum, to open in 2015.

The American Alliance of Museums has announced that the National Canal Museum (Easton, PA) was one of four museums that earned re-accreditation at the February meeting of the Accreditation Commission.

The Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau presented the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum (Hershey, PA) with the Platinum Award for “Excellence in Programming”.

 

LEADERSHIP

The Board of Directors of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas, TX) appointed Colleen Walker as the Museum’s Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer, effective June 1, 2014.

Janis Rowe was named Associate Director of Hubbard Museum of the American West (Ruidoso Downs, NM).

January 6, 2014

starting the new year off right! Affiliate kudos for January 2014

Funding

The PPG Industries Foundation announced a $5,000 donation to the Frontiers of Flight Museum (Dallas, TX) to support aviation and space-flight education programs for Pre-K through 10th-grade students.

The Putnam Museum (Davenport, IA) has received a $300,000 grant to develop a Science and Technology Innovation Center. The Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant from Vision Iowa will support the $2.2 million STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning center that will provide hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture (Baltimore, MD) received a $128,000 grant award through The Star-Spangled 200 (SS200) Grant Program in the commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 for maximum benefit to Marylanders. The funding will go to support the exhibition “For Whom it Stands: The Flag and the American People” highlighting Grace Wisher’s contribution to the original Star-Spangled Banner and investigates the broader history and representation of the United States flag as an icon of our nation and its people

The Schiele Museum of Natural History (Gastonia, NC) received a $1,000 Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibitions Service Smithsonian Community Grant, sponsored by MetLife Foundation.  The award will be used to fund speakers’ fees for “Bugapolooza,” the museum’s annual celebration of the contributions made by insects to the natural world. Programs will include hands-on activities, interaction with entomologists, museum displays, and presentations by insect researchers in order to increase interest in entomology, as well as an awareness of the value of biological research programs. All programming relate to the themes of Farmers, Warriors, Builders: The Hidden Life of Ants.

 A citizen science initiative led by the Adler Planetarium (Chicago, IL) and Oxford University won $1.8 million from Google’s Global Impact Awards. Zooniverse, a nonprofit collaboration between the two institutions that has already had close to 1 million volunteer scientists participating, links ongoing research to willing volunteers who, in most cases, comb through data that requires human interpretation. The 18 current projects include searching for lightcurve anomalies in telescopic images to help discover distant planets and classifying animals caught in Serengeti National Park camera traps. Zooniverse will use the money to rebuild its platform to make it easier for more science projects to take part. The money will also help the Adler extend the project to schools and youth and community groups locally. 

Historic Bethlehem Partnership  (Bethlehem, PA) will hire and train costumed docents to act as historic ambassadors to Bethlehem’s Moravian history, thanks to a $45,000 allocation in 2014 by the Northampton County Council.

Awards and Recognition

The New England Museum Association (NEMA) elected Susan Funk, executive vice president of Mystic Seaport (Mystic, CT), as president of its board of directors.

The American Alliance of Museums has announced that eight museums were newly accredited including  an Affiliate, the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History (Albuquerque, NM).

Assistant Superintendent Peter Aucella of the Lowell National Historical Park (Lowell, MA) received the
Department of the Interior’s Superior Service Award in recognition of his 23-year career with the National Park Service and his stewardship of the Lowell Summer Music Series. 

The Silo Cooking School at Hunt Hill Farm (New Milford, CT) was awarded the honor of 2013′s Best Cooking Classes by Connecticut Magazine. 

Leadership

The Executive Board of Trustees of the International Museum of Art & Science has appointed Danella Hughes as its new Interim Executive Director.

 

September 24, 2013

kudos affiliates! october 2013

The air is turning crisp, but Affiliate accomplishments continue to shine!

FUNDING

Chabot Space & Science Center (Oakland, CA) was presented a “Waste Management Cares” award in the amount of $95,000 for their environmental education programming. 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced the recipients for the Museums for America and National Leadership Grants for Museums programs featuring the following Affiliates:

History Colorado (Denver, CO)
Award Amount: $134,425; Matching Amount: $214,622
History Colorado will design, create, pilot, and evaluate five multilevel 21st century skills-based Colorado History Digital Badges for children in fourth, seventh, and eleventh grades. Each badge will challenge students to complete various quests or activities in conjunction with the learning standards for their appropriate grade.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science (Denver, CO)
Award Amount: $149,965; Matching Amount: $150,099
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science will purchase new storage cabinets to rehouse its Asian collection of 1,130 objects, and enter collections information into its database, making images available for publication through its website. The collection illustrates the main materials, designs, and technologies used by indigenous cultures of China, Taiwan, Japan, South Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.  

Mystic Seaport Museum (Mystic, CT)
Award Amount: $80,343; Matching Amount: $85,864
Mystic Seaport will catalog, digitally photograph, and place a group of 4,950 objects and photographs into secure storage. The items were selected to support an online learning project for students and teachers, and programming associated with whaling and the restoration and planned voyage of the whaleship Charles W. Morgan, a National Historic Landmark.  

B & O Railroad Museum (Baltimore, MD)
Award Amount: $135,232; Matching Amount: $185,880
The B&O Railroad Museum will restore the B&O #600 J.C. Davis locomotive that was severely damaged by a collapsed museum roof in a 2003 blizzard. It is one of only two locomotives surviving from Philadelphia’s1876 Centennial Exposition. Four staff and 10 trained volunteers will restore the engine to its 1875 appearance.  

USS Constitution Museum  (Boston, MA)
Award Amount: $280,623; Matching Amount: $286,936
The USS Constitution Museum (USSCM) will use its grant to identify characteristics of family programming that result in active intergenerational engagement, enjoyment, and learning in museums and libraries. The project seeks to create a robust yet flexible set of guidelines for creating genuine intergenerational learning experiences disseminated through workshops, online resources, conferences, and publications.

Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing, MI)
Award Amount: $77,292; Matching Amount: $81,117
The Michigan State University Museum will purchase archivally stable storage materials, museum-quality cabinets, and a mobile storage system to create appropriate storage for an 827-box prehistoric and historic archaeological collection to ensure its safety and that of its users and to provide capacity for future collection expansion. The rehousing project will facilitate access by faculty, graduate students, and visiting scholars who regularly use the collections.

Center for the History of Psychology, University of Akron (Akron, OH)
Award Amount: $52,454; Matching Amount: $55,038
The Center for the History of Psychology will partner with 10 local high school teachers to design, implement, and evaluate educational resources to provide meaningful, informative, and memorable fieldtrips. The teachers will attend a one-day workshop to brainstorm with the project team. The museum will develop a Teachers Resource Package with guides to the museum, exhibits, and classroom activities; lesson plans based on state standards; and an online repository of archival materials for classroom activities. The museum will also create a “Measuring the Mind” interactive exhibit for teenagers and young adults, providing access to historical materials from the collections.  

Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience  (Seattle, WA)
Award Amount: $150,000; Matching Amount: $167,269
The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience will produce a newly designed tour program to empower the Asian Pacific American community to share their stories, help stimulate the local economy, and promote the historic and cultural vibrancy of the district. The Chinatown International District, on the National Register of Historic Places, is Seattle’s lowest-income neighborhood, struggling with multiple issues that threaten its preservation.  

Buffalo Bill Historical Center (Cody, WY)
Award Amount: $149,958; Matching Amount: $153,004
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center will complete a two-year Picturing Buffalo Bill project to digitize 6,000 photographs in its McCracken Research Library related to the life and career of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Staff will scan, catalog, and upload images to expand the “Buffalo Bill Online Archive” on the museum’s website, along with subject headings and descriptive metadata.  


RECOGNITION

The Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, MI) has earned accredition by the American Alliance of Museums.


LEADERSHIP
Clarence G. “C.G.” Newsome, Ph.D. is the new president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, OH) 

The Board of Trustees of the Long Island Museum (Stony Brook, NY) announced that Neil Watson has been appointed Executive Director.

August 20, 2013

kudos Affiliates! September 2013

Summer 2013 is winding down but continues to be a hot one for our Affiliates!

Funding

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The National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced the recipients of $33 million in grants for 173 humanities projects, including the following Affiliate projects:

- Mystic Seaport Museum (Mystic, CT)-$164,280
Project: “The American Maritime People” NEH Summer Institute 2014
Project Description: Implementing a five-week summer institute for twenty college and university faculty to examine recent social, cultural, and ecological approaches to American maritime studies.

- Mystic Seaport Museum (Mystic, CT)-$450,000
Project: Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers: The 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan
Project Description: Implementing a long-term exhibition, a website, and public programs at the Mystic Seaport Museum that examine the broad economic, social, and cultural impact of whaling. 

- Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, ME)-$220,000
Project: Implementing Sustainability Strategies for the Abbe Museum’s Collections Environment
Project Description: The implementation of environmental improvements, consisting of upgrades to the climate control and lighting systems, for a museum that collects, preserves, and exhibits ethnographic and historic material relating to the four tribes of central Maine,  collectively known as the Wabanaki.

- Montana Historical Society (Helena, MT)-$300,000
Project: Montana Digital Newspaper Project
Project Description: Digitization 100,000 pages of Montana newspapers dating from 1836 to 1922, as part of the state’s continuing participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

- Ohio Historical Society (Columbus, OH)-$40,000
Project: Ohio’s Ten Tribes
Project Description: Planning for a five-thousand-square-foot permanent exhibition, a website, and educational materials examining the forced removal of ten Native American tribes from Ohio in the early 19th century and the historical and contemporary impact on these tribes.

- Oklahoma Historical Society (Oklahoma City, OK)-$300,000
Project: Oklahoma Newspaper Digitization Project
Project Description: Digitization of 100,000 pages of Oklahoma newspapers issued between 1836 and 1922, as part of the state’s continuing participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

- National Museum of American Jewish History (Philadelphia, PA)-$300,000
Project: Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Jews in America
Project Description: Implementation of an artifact-based traveling exhibition, a smaller panel version to be displayed in baseball parks, a catalogue, a website, and related public programs.

- Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (Seattle, WA)-$179,914
Project: Asian Pacific American Immigrants in the Pacific Northwest: Transforming the Nation
Project Description: Two one-week Landmarks workshops for eighty school teachers to explore the history and culture of Asian immigrant groups in the Pacific Northwest and their significance to the nation.

- Buffalo Bill Historical Center (Cody, WY)-$200,000
Project: The Papers of William F. Cody: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and the European Frontier
Project Description: Preparation for publication of materials related to the tours by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show of Great Britain and Germany in 1887-1906.

IMLS_Logo_2c

 

 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services recently announced recipients of its grants for African American History and Culture, including the following Affiliates:

- Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, AL)-$74,277 to implement the Collection Storage Improvement Project, the goal of which is to safeguard its archival and fine arts collections to ensure that they will be available for use by current and future staff, scholars, and researchers.

- The Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, OH)-$150,000 for an apprentice program, recruiting recent talented graduates from colleges and universities across the country, with a focus on those from HBCUs.
 

The Montana Historical Society (Helena, MT) is going a little Hollywood with its historic collection of films and still photographs that will help tell the story of Sen. Lee Metcalf and his contributions to what he helped make “The Last Best Place.” A two-year grant from the private sector Council on Library and Information Resources will allow them to arrange, preserve and describe the Metcalf photographs and film. The grant provides the resources necessary to spend time researching, identifying and preserving all of the materials in the collections.

Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA) received a $200,000 grant from the Plymouth Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) to support the renovation and expansion of the Museum’s Craft Center, providing essential visitor services like climate control and additional area for demonstrations and hands-on activities. The Museum also plans to construct a bakery in the Craft Center, where guests can view demonstrations of 17th-century baking techniques and learn how to make bread.

Leadership

Patricia Wilson Aden has been named the new President & CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia

The International Storytelling Center (Jonesborough, TN) has hired Kiran Singh Sirah, a prominent folklorist, as its new Executive Director.

Carrie M. Heinonen has been named President and Director of the Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix, AZ)

January 25, 2013

kudos Affiliates! february 2013

2013 begins with success for our Affiliates!

Funding

Science Museum Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) announced the museum has been awarded a $12 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and plans to open a new exhibit area for young children. The new 21,000-square-foot exhibit space will be devoted to children between 3 and 6 years old. The museum also plans a new main entrance and lobby along with improved parking and updated landscaping.

Mystic Seaport (Mystic, Connecticut) was awarded a $100,000 grant by the Beagary Charitable Trust which the museum will use to create activities and learning tools for use in school, at the museum and online.  The funding will be used to develop educational programs to coincide with the completed restoration and 38th voyage of the museum’s 1841 whale ship, Charles W. Morgan. The designation will afford students across the state an opportunity to learn about Connecticut maritime history, the significance of the whaling industry and the importance of the state’s maritime heritage.

The Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, Michigan) received $750,000 as part of the investment in Detroit arts and culture from the Knight Foundation. The grant will enhance the annual Concert of Colors free global music festival, of which the museum is lead producer. In particular, the Knight funding will restore the summer festival’s annual Forum on Community, Culture & Race and help rebuild the Cultural Exchange Network of 50 arts groups that originally facilitated the Concert of Colors.

Pennsylvania Humanities Council recently funded a film and art series to complement “Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges,” at the National Museum of American Jewish History (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). The exhibit focuses on the story of Jewish professors who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and found positions at historically black colleges and universities in the Jim Crow South.

The Museum of Latin American Art (Long Beach, California) received a $25,000 donation from Hyundai Motor America that will go toward the purchase of a bus to be used to provide free tours and art workshops to students from the Los Angeles area.

AAM Accreditation

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) announced that 10 museums have been newly accredited and 13 museums earned re-accreditation at the November 2012 meeting of the Accreditation Commission. Accredited status from the Alliance is the highest national recognition achievable by an American museum. The following Affiliate museums were awarded accreditation.  Congratulations!

Executive Transitions

  • Smithsonian Affiliations would like to extend our best wishes to Robert Ellis, who served 35 years at The Air Zoo (Portage, Michigan).  Former Da Vinci Science Center executive director and CEO, Troy Thrash has been named new chief executive at The Air Zoo.
  • We bid a fond farewell to Paul Knappenberger  who served 22 years at the Adler Planetarium (Chicago, Illinois). Astrophysicist Michelle Larson has been named as the next president of the Adler.
  • Affiliations welcomes Mark Lizewskie, new executive director at the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum (Hershey, Pennsylvania).

September 11, 2012

What I did on my summer vacation – American history through her Ships

This summer I had an opportunity to experience American history from an interesting perspective – on the water.  My travels took me to three Affiliates whose ships – actual, life-size, working ships – punctuate important moments in our history.   The Mayflower II, the USS Constitution, and the Charles W. Morgan all illustrate the crucial contributions of “sailors” (of all types) to our nation’s success.  

“Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, [we] fell upon [our] knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought [us] over the vast and furious ocean.”   Especially today, a visitor to the Mayflower II can still deeply appreciate these words by the Plymouth colony’s first governor, William Bradford.  The magnitude of this bravery is inspiring to imagine.    

On one of the upper decks of the Mayflower II, in Plymouth harbor.

The Mayflower II is a faithful reproduction of the original, historic ship that brought the Pilgrims to the coast of Massachusetts in November 1620 (and was given to the United States by the British in 1957).  Exploring the decks of the ship and its cramped quarters, it’s easy to imagine the fears and anxieties of its 102 passengers, including 3 pregnant women, who lived there for over ten weeks.  Also on board were all the food, clothing, furniture, tools and other items they would need to start a life in a foreign land.

The travails of such a voyage and the biographies of its passengers are fascinating.  But the interpreters’ discussion of the Mayflower Compact is equally inspirational.  After the tumultuous voyage and a protracted start to finding an anchoring spot on Cape Cod, the community on board collectively decided to delay disembarking until they had a self-governing treaty in place.  That act, and their subsequent diplomacy with the indigenous Wampanoag, reveal the very early beginnings of what American democracy would look like, both in its best and worst incarnations. 

Plimoth Plantation, Smithsonian Affiliate, does a great job of telling both sides of this story in all of its sites – from the ship to the Wampanoag Homesite and the English Village.  What I quickly realized is that the Pilgrim story is much more complex than the one we celebrate at Thanksgiving, and well worth delving in deeper to appreciate. 

“Huzzah! her sides are made of iron!”  Up north in Boston, I toured the USS Constitution.  Most know her by her nickname, Old Ironsides, based on this exclamation by one of her sailors.  The ship sits in the Charlestown Navy Yard next door to Smithsonian Affiliate, the USS Constitution Museum.

I learned that it was George Washington himself who commissioned the building of the USS Constitution  in the Naval Armament Act of 1794.  And today, the USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world; it’s still an active duty vessel in the U.S. Navy. 

Ready to go onboard the USS Constitution, in Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard

Most importantly, she is undefeated.  The USS Constitution fought in several wars, most famously in the War of 1812.  That war, often called the Second War of Independence, definitively established the power and resolve of our new nation.  The celebrated victories of the USS Constitution incarnated that resolve.  She is most famous for her victory over the HMS Guerriere in July 1812, when the British ship’s 18-pound iron cannonballs, shot at close range, “bounced” off her sides.  (Her hull is not, in fact, made of iron, but of oak.)  The battle was over in 35 minutes. 

Touring the ship is amazing, but it’s in the museum where the story gets really unpacked.  Here, you come to understand what life was like on the ship – how much sailors were paid, what they ate and wore.  You can even try out how they slept, on hammocks only inches apart from one another.  Being there this summer as the museum commemorates the 200th anniversary of that fateful victory was especially moving, another reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of our military that solidified the foundation of our nation.

“The story of the American whaling industry… is a rousing chapter in American history…emblematic of a vastly larger story.”  So Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough describes the iconic Charles W. Morgan ship, docked at Smithsonian Affiliate Mystic Seaport in southern Connecticut.

The Morgan is the crown jewel of the Seaport’s collection, America’s last surviving wooden whaleship, and a designated National Historic Landmark since 1966.  Built in 1841, she made 37 voyages in her 80 years of service, surviving countless hazards of the sea such as ocean storms, Arctic ice, and even, a cannibal attack.

But why is a whaleship so important to American history?  Before kerosene and petroleum were discovered later in the 19th century, whale oil (and other byproducts) were  the primary commodity used for illumination and lubrication.  Think about that – American lighthouses, lamps, candles, street lights, and industry machines were all powered by whale oil, and kept our economy moving forward.  As Herman Melville said in the great whaling novel Moby Dick, it was considered “as rare as the milk of queens.” 

Checking out the Morgan’s blubber room.

Her effect on our economy is not the only important story.  The Morgan literally sailed all over the world, and attracted an incredibly diverse global crew who eventually became U.S. citizens.  The ship is the last surviving reminder of a major international economic force, but also, a living piece of history that tells great stories of adventure, hardship and immigration. 

All three of these amazing ships still sail.  All three have been, or will be, on the water again – the Mayflower II at its 50th anniversary in 2007, the USS Constitution this summer to commemorate its 200th anniversary victory, and next summer, the Morgan will embark on her 38th voyage to the New England ports she visited decades ago.

So here’s to the ships, their passengers and crews, that so bravely shaped our history.  Huzzah!

 

 

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