Fan of Full Fathom Five? Be sure to check it out at its new home!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On Stranger Tides

Looking for yet more good Halloween reading? In the mood for the supernatural? Like pirates better than phantom ships? How about a book that has both: Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides.
It's one of my very favorite books.

Powers has a reputation for crafting engaging stories that are historically accurate while incorporating a twist, so out of curiosity I did a little searching: it's available in at least eight languages, and even Oxford University holds a copy. Even Yale holds a copy. Some very large maritime museum libraries around the world do not have a copy of this book. Maybe that's because it's too much fun!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Position: Assistant Professor, Naval/Military History - History

The U.S. Naval Academy invites applications for a tenure-track assistant professor with a specialization in naval and/or military history. Geographical area and chronological focus are open, but the candidate will be expected to teach a core course on American naval history. The successful candidate will also be able to offer upper-level courses in her or his field of specialization. Ph.D. in history required, teaching experience and publications preferred. Send letter, vita, and three letters of recommendation by December 1, 2007 to Professor Maochum Yu, History Department, 107 Maryland Ave., U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD 21402-5044.

The Naval Academy is an AA/EEO employer and provides reasonable accommodations for applicants with disabilities.

If you have questions regarding a specific vacancy announcement, please contact the Job Information Center at (410) 293-3822.

Revision Date: October 26, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Position Announcement: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, San Francisco, CA seeks has on opening for a Supervisory Collections Manager.

The position is responsible for managing the various diverse and complex programs involved in oversight of an extensive museum collection. This involves the day-to-day supervision of the historic documents, library, and collections staff and interaction with the preservation department staff, to ensure the care, preservation, and accountability of the park’s museum objects, comprising over 120,000 vessel and shipyard architectural drawings, 250,000 forms of photo images, 6 million business records and personal documents, and 34,000 maritime artifacts within the park, and to ensure the proper use and maintenance of museum equipment and supplies.

Qualification Requirements:

Museum Curator: Applicants must meet the following basic requirement in addition to the specialized experience requirement: (A) Bachelor’s Degree in museum work or (B) Combination of education and experience with courses in museum work equivalent to a degree plus appropriate experience or (C) four years of experience that provided knowledge comparable to that normally acquired through the successful completion of a degree in museum work.

A full description of the position

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Under the Black Flag

I just finished David Cordingly's Under the Black Flag : the Romance and Reality of Life Among the Pirates and it was fantastic.

I had always wondered why people were fascinated by pirates. What about these thieves, murderers, and torturers was appealing? Now I get it. I had been looking at them through historical narratives--Cordingly looks at novels, plays, and films in the context of the history, and shows how the view of the pirate as romantic figure of ultimate freedom developed. But he also gives us a history of piracy worldwide, and describes a most brutal occupation in an age of brutality with a dispassion that led me, the most squeamish of readers, to read on and on and on. And it's the worldwide coverage that I appreciate the most; if you think the area with the most pirate activity was the Caribbean, then you need to read this book.

And if you want to keep reading, check out this month's National Geographic magazine's article, Dark Passage about contemporary piracy in the Strait of Malacca.

(I have to thank the kind members of the Tim Powers Yahoo Group for their reading recommendations--even when it comes to piracy, they've never led me astray!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Visit to the Eastern Shore

With the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum as a backdrop President Bush announced new initiatives that he said would protect migrating birds and two fish species, red drum and striped bass, prized by anglers. The order under discussion has some interesting ramifications for commercial fisherman too. Full Story

Stuart Parnes, President of the Museum, is pictured here walking with the Bush, and also performed the introductions.

Open Content Alliance

"There are two opposed pathways being mapped out...One is shaped by commercial concerns, the other by a commitment to openness, and which one will win is not clear." --Paul Duguid, UC Berkeley, quoted in the The NY Times.

Where is the Smithsonian Institution placing its digital books? After the Library of Congress' pilot program with Google, where will they place 136,000 digitized books? Not with Google, but with the Open Content Alliance. The full story makes some interesting reading--you'll learn what books you're not finding.

John S. Carter Story Continues...

Peter Mello at Sea Fever has an excellent post on the unfolding story..."My Fair Share"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The lighter side of phantom ships

Would you rather pick up Jokeby than Rokeby? How many of us first discovered legends of phantom ships through watching Pirates of the Caribbean? Or Popeye? I'll 'fess up: my love of the sea was kindled by Popeye cartoons (the black & white ones were my favorite) as much as by growing up in sight of salt water, and I became aware of the legend of the Flying Dutchman by reading Tom Holt's Flying Dutch. This book is a real hoot--it made me laugh out loud on pre-dawn bus rides to work (not an easy task!).

How many people discover maritime culture through these forms of popular culture? And how much of it is in our maritime library collections? My library doesn't have Flying Dutch--neither does Mariners, Mystic, or the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. UC Riverside's Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror does, however.

When it comes to future researchers of our maritime culture, will they find what they need in collections that ignore popular novels, films, and even (gasp!) comic books? Sailors today still encounter phantom ships and it's not difficult to discover accounts of contemporary ship hauntings. Are our libraries and museums preserving these legends and stories? Where will the maritime culture of the 20th century be found?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bush plans trip to Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

From the Baltimore Sun

President Bush's weekend excursions in Maryland are typically limited to bicycle rides in Beltsville or an overnight stay at Camp David.

But on Saturday, the president will explore the charms of the Eastern Shore with a scheduled visit to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, followed by lunch at the nearby vacation home of Vice President Dick Cheney.....

I'll keep on eye on this one and see how the Museum makes out.

Position: Supervisor of Dramatic Productions

This Full-Time position will produce quality dramatic productions and develop new programs based upon maritime topics. In addition, it provides support for interpreters, music and role-playing programs. Proven directing ability, highly developed interpersonal skills as well as ability to work in collaborative environment are essential. Position closes November 18, 2007. For information or an application visit our website or call Human Resources 860-572-5346. Mystic Seaport is an AA/EOE employer.

Position: Part-Time Associate Curator of Maritime Collections

Part-Time Associate Curator of Maritime Collections Baltimore, Maryland
Maryland Historical Society
Applications Contact person: Human Resources
Application due date: 11/01/2007
Salary range: Market Rate
Web Address:

The Maryland Historical Society seeks a part-time Associate Curator of Maritime Collections to be responsible for the maritme-related collections of the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS). This position also supports related exhibit work, educational programs, research and care of the MdHS maritime collections. Required skills: Specific knowledge of maritime history and artifacts, the ability to interpret the maritime collections and to communicate that knowledge in a variety of written and oral formats, knowledge of Maryland history, successful track record of exhibition development and demonstrated understanding the importance of objects in a museum setting, ability to carry out historical research and communicate this research through excellent writing and public speaking skills, knowledge of preservation and conservation practices, applied working knowledge of varied computer software packages including the Microsoft Office suite of applications, demonstrated ability to!
ability to supervise interns and volunteers, multi-task, be organized and flexible, meet deadlines and prioritize job responsibilities.
Successful candidate must have a MA, History, Maritime History, American Studies or related field and a minimum of three years museum experience.
Please send cover letter, resume and three references by November 1, 2007 to: Human Resources, Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St., Baltimore, MD 21201. EOE. No phone calls.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


The Oxford Compantion to Ships and the Sea mentions that the theme of the Flying Dutchman has been used in various literary forms, the best known being Marryat's book The Phantom Ship, Scott in his poem Rokeby, and Wagner's opera Der fliegende Holländer.

Rokeby? I'd never heard of it!

Luckily the Edinburgh University Library has a fantastic site on Rokeby as part of its Walter Scott Digital Archive with links to electronic texts. For Rokeby, we're sent to The Making of America digital text archive, which offers text navigation that should, in my opinion, set the standard for how electronic text navigation should work. Like Project Gutenberg, you can browse as well as search, but with MOA, when you locate a text, there's a bar along the top where you can easily change the format of the viewed page (image, pdf, or text--which allows easy copying & pasting), select different pages, or search within the text. When I searched within Rokeby, I came across:

Then,'mid the war of sea and sky,
Top and top-gallant hoisted high,
Full spread and crowded every sail,
The Demon Frigate braves the gale;
And well the doom'd spectators know
The harbinger of wreck and woe.

I liked this so much I went on to read the opening of the poem:

The Moon is in her summer glow,
But hoarse and high the breezes blow,
And, racking o'er her face, the cloud
Varies the tincture of her shroud;

Wow. A shroud-clad, a dead, moon, with the cloud flying before her on a high wind. I'm hooked. I'll be reading more.

Lastly, don't miss the Walter Scott Digital Archive Image Collection--it led me to Jokeby, a Burlesque on Rokeby (which is available in Google Books supposedly in its entirety--unfortunately, not all the pages were scanned completely and some text is missing.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Call for Papers for The Journal of the North Atlantic

The Journal of the North Atlantic (JONA) is a new multi-disciplinary,
peer-reviewed and edited archaeology and environmental history journal
focusing on the peoples of the North Atlantic, their expansion into the
region over time, and their interactions with their changing environment.
<> .

Since it will be a full-featured online-only journal, articles can be
quickly published and made available to researchers worldwide. The journal
has no publication fees, even for Special Issues and large Monographs. The
first issue is expected to be available in the spring of 2008. The journal
will be indexed in a full range of journal content databases. Journal
content can be conveniently accessed both by subscription and on a single
article basis.

The Journal of the North Atlantic will publish a wide diversity of
research papers, as well as research summaries and general interest articles
in closely related disciplines, which, when considered together, will help
contribute to a comprehensive multi-disciplinary understanding of the
historical interplay between cultural and environmental changes in the North
Atlantic world.

Specifically, the journal's focus will include paleo-environmental
reconstruction and modelling, historical ecology, archaeology, ecology of
organisms important to humans, anthropology, human/environment/climate
interactions, climate history, ethnography, ethnohistory, historical
analyses, discussions of cultural heritage, and place-name studies.

The journal will also publish field observations, notes, and
archaeological site reports, as well as book reviews, summaries of important
news stories, opinion papers, and free brief announcements of meetings,
symposia, conferences, and grant opportunities.

The journal is part of the database. This database allows
authors to include supporting files such as video, database, and audio
files, and to freely include color photographs and figures with articles.

We welcome your interest and questions! Joerg-Henner Lotze, Publisher

Board of Editors - Affiliations are listed on the website.

Journal of the North Atlantic
Eagle Hill Foundation
PO Box 9, 59 Eagle Hill Road, Steuben, ME 04680-0009 United States
Phone: 207-546-2821, FAX: 207-546-3042,

Best regards,

Morten Karn√łe S√łndergaard
Editor, Global Fisheries History Network
Centre for Maritime and Regional Studies <>
Fisheries and Maritime Museum/University of Southern Denmark
Tarphagevej 2
Esbjerg V. 6710 DK
Phone: +4576122022

Friday, October 12, 2007

Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman by Albert Pinkham Ryder.
It's that time of year when a young-at-heart librarian's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of phantom ships! I love this time of year--here we are planning costumes (which we get to wear at work) and on Halloween our neighbors will all be out either trick-or-treating or handing out treats.

So I decided to learn more about that famous phantom, the Flying Dutchman. I looked him up in printed resources I had handy--in the Facts on File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, in The Reader's Encyclopedia by William Rose Benet, and in The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. Although the entry in the Oxford Companion wasn't the longest, I found I liked it the best. It included an example of the legend, was written engagingly, gave references to literary & musical versions, and was the only one that mentioned the Viking Stöte.

I also checked various online sources, and the best really was Wikipedia's entry, although I was disappointed in Wikipedia's links. The Wikipedia article, itself, is nicely cited and the assertions substantiated, but the external links make vast claims as to sources of the legends mostly without any support whatsoever.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

H-Net's book reviews

Maritime studies: humanities? Social science? Economics? All those and more. And luckily, a part of H-Net, as "H-Maritime." H-Maritime is a low volume, high quality list on H-Net--and you don't have to join it to read it. The messages are freely available (under "Discussion logs"), and if you head right over there, you'll see Sharla Fett's review of Stephanie E. Smallwood's Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora linked under the recent messages right on the home page.

This review is a prime example of why I like H-Maritime: it was originally posted to H-Atlantic, but copied over to H-Maritime. As components of the vast H-Net, the smaller lists stay on topic, but gain from the strength of being interdisciplinary components of the whole.

And this review is also typical by being a teaching tool in itself as well as a pleasure to read--just by reading the review, I learned more about the historiography of slavery than I ever knew before. And phrases like "the Atlantic World was not a coherent geographic entity, but a space of saltwater terror" are haunting.

I usually see the saltwater out my window as one end of a vast watery road connecting all the lands of the world--but I'm looking at it differently today.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads

Today the federal holiday is Columbus Day, and my city's holiday is Indigenous Peoples Day--two very different responses to the historical fact of Columbus' landing.

Kelly's reflections on museums and libraries have inspired my thinking about the interpretation of historical facts--of the interpretation of facts in general--and reminded me of one of my favorite books on museology, Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture of Natural History Museums by Stephen T. Asma. (The maritime connection is there--really! Many of these collections were built through the voyages undertaken during the 'great age of exploration.' And, well, Darwin! We can't forget Darwin! See? Maritime connection.)

Why I mention this book is that it helped me to interpret the messages inherent in the exhibits--how the presentation of scientific fact is never neutral. It's the same with history, especially maritime history. Our maritime culture is as present in Columbus Day/Indigenous People's Day as in the coffee or tea we drank this morning, yet many of us only "consume" maritime history through museums--or text--with as little thought about them as we give to our morning coffee. They are simply there. When the museum presents the objects, or the book presents the facts, what message is being conveyed by their juxtaposition? By the words surrounding their presentation? By the illustrations? The lighting? Check out this book, and you'll begin to see the messages around the exhibits--the opinions surrounding the facts.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Museums will be….

In the keynote session today David Lee King referred to an exercise done in New Zealand where librarians were asked to finish the sentence – “In 2017, Libraries will be….”

His, and my favorite two responses were: “anywhere, anytime, anyhow”, and “about communities.”

Substituting “museums” for “libraries” I like those two responses even more. Museums are organized around themes or interests. Communities, especially online communities are also organized around themes and interest. So viola! If you have surfed the web on maritime subjects for only a few minutes you know there are maritime communities out there. Lots of them! And lots of really serious, intently involved, long sustaining communities. Why should not we, as the Libraries and Museums that hold this information and also create space and have ‘weight’ become the focus, the home, the anywhere, anytime, anyhow community.

See what photos the maritime museum community is posting at flickr now:

Friday, October 05, 2007

Voyage of the Pandora

Engraving of George Hamilton from the frontispiece of his published narrative (Voyage round the world in HMS Pandora, Berwick, 1793).
This week Project Gutenberg released the Voyage of H.M.S. Pandora despatched to arrest the mutineers of the Bounty in the South Seas, 1790-1791 by Edward Edwards, commander, and George Hamilton, surgeon. Originally published in 1915 from a manuscript in the Record Office, these are the narratives of two of the people who were first sent out after the Bounty mutineers.

The story of the Pandora is more than just a chapter in the saga of the Bounty--the Pandora is one of the most significant shipwrecks in the southern hemisphere, and the Queensland Museum's HMS Pandora site is a great place to start reading about the Pandora, and to gain a context for Edwards' and Hamilton's narratives.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

San Diego Maritime Museum to Build San Salvador

SAN DIEGO - In 1542, the Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay aboard the square-rigged sailing galleon San Salvador. Now, more than 450 years later, plans are under way to build a 100-foot replica of the ship that enabled Cabrillo to become the first European to sail along the West Coast and to set foot on the land that eventually became San Diego.

"She's long been an iconic symbol of our city," said Ray Ashley, executive director of the San Diego Maritime Museum. "She embodies the act of discovery; the process of exploration. That's why she continues to be such a powerful image."

The museum's effort to build San Salvador recently got a sizable boost with a $2 million grant from the California Coastal Conservancy, which approved the museum's grant-and-loan request. The total project is expected to cost $5 million, to be raised through additional grants, major donors and fundraising campaigns.

Full story


Today I flew to Denver to attend the annual LITA (Library and Information Technology Association) Conference. Appropriately but not intentionally I choose "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman as my in-flight reading material. "Flat" is in its 3.0 release and it was funny how much I read that at the time he wrote it felt would be shocking, but has already become relatively common knowledge, but certainly not common practice, especially in the museum world. While most of the major corporations and economies are global, pulling and distributing information and products about the globe using world-wide economic and networks of efficiencies, museums and libraries remain geographically fixed, even frozen. For public and Academic Libraries this is almost understandable as their support structure and user base is geographically local, but for special, theme-based museums and libraries whose support structure is not so restricted and whose user base pulls from around the world, its downright backwards, or backwater (to bring in the maritime aspects). Why are we (meaning maritime museums and libraries) not serving our information and resources to the internet when anyone with a laptop can be posting their thoughts? Why are our websites static visitor brochures when anyone can be a wikipedia editor (not to mention, why does wikipedia often have better information on our museums, and vessels then the previously mentioned brochures- check that out). When you’re done with that go to or and search on your favorite maritime museum, chances are you'll find some amazing photos and videos - why aren't the museums posting, or leveraging those. (Forget about the idea that we might want to consider accessioning them). Why are we so far outside this raging flood of information providing and gathering when really, they've got so much to offer?
And we have so much that would pull our special brand of enthusiast in?

Well, that is one of the reason's I'm here at LITA in Denver. I want to connect with the people who are working toward answering how we can do that. For the next few days I'll be blogging on my LITA sessions for LITA. Their blog is at:

I'll also post links here to my own posts here.

(I'm also going to REI and Confluence Park and Oktoberfest and later, Moab- but details on that are posted at

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

New Book: Chinese Junks on the Pacific

Hans Konrad Van Tilburg's new book, Chinese Junks on the Pacific: Views from a Different Deck from the University Press of Florida received a very favorable review in the new issue of Sea History (no. 120, autumn 2007, p.53-54, available from the National Maritime Historical Society). In his review, Timothy J. Runyan emphasizes "the rather unlikely selection of twentieth-century representatives," which is what I find intriguing about this book--unlike many other books about junks, Van Tilburg details voyages between 1906 and 1989, using their examples to explore not only the vessels but also the sociological issues of Western perceptions--and mis-perceptions. These explorations make this book noteworthy to those interested in aspects of maritime culture beyond the material culture--to those interested not only in the architecture and shipbuilding of the vessels, but how the vessels were sailed, to where they were sailed, and what reception they found when they arrived.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Soft Spot

I've always been drawn to the sturdy pilot cutter and was happy today to read that Swansea Museum has received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.The £50,000 cash will go to the fund for the continued support of Olga, Swansea Museum's Bristol Channel pilot cutter.

While trying to discover more about Olga I learned that I am not alone in my admiration for Pilot Cutters. Several yards in the UK are still producing and maintaining these fine work boat.

Working sail is one such yard. They also have a great website with a great video.

RB Boatbuilding Ltd's site has some good photos too, and an interesting history of various pilot cutters.

The video here is of West Wind, a Colin Archer designed Pilot Schooner:

Monday, October 01, 2007

American Archives Month

Great history books often begin with someone crying out, "Eureka!" at a table covered with boxes and folders--with a researcher whose mind is now tying together the strands of the story that they discovered in documents in archival collections. (OK, not everyone cries out--some just get this twinkle in their eye or betray a quiet excitement!) To celebrate this, the Society of American Archivists has declared October 2007 American Archives Month.

Finding one's way through the vast collections can be daunting--luckily, there's a great place to start: Historical Documents Online: Search Hints for Selected Topics: Marine/Navigation. If you haven't checked this out, take a look--even if you don't think you're interested, it's a great place to begin learning just what sorts of information shows up at the National Archives ("NARA"), and just what sort of documents, images, and cartographic resources appear there.

And take a moment this month to celebrate! Does your local library or historical society have primary resources? Documents? Local history collections? What about you and your family--thought about caring for your own photographs, scrapbooks, and books? Celebrate Archives Month by checking out Conservation Online's Conservation/Preservation Information for the General Public, a fantastic list of resources from reputable organizations.