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MAKING WAVES: Innovative Maritime Scholarship in a Post-Pandemic World

October 14, 2023 @ 8:30 am - 5:30 pm

Join the conversation on Saturday, October 14 for the 2023 Albert Reed & Thelma Walker Maritime Symposium.

Scholars in Maine and around the world navigated COVID-19 to conduct innovative and creative maritime research. Our symposium features a dynamic exploration of maritime stories past and present, navigating the local and global impact of Maine’s waterways. Read more about our speakers and topics below and register by Monday, October 9.

Event Speakers, Topic Descriptions & Bios

Belkamp PC Nicole Wolf.

Photo Credit: Nicole Wolf

“How do we know what we ‘know’?” 


The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted many systematic vulnerabilities in our society. In Maine it shone a light on the significant systemic vulnerability of the seafood economy, the lobster fishery, and communities. It also brought focus on the assumptions we all hold in respect to Maine’s iconic lobster fishery. This talk will tell the story of how Island Institute staff were motivated by the COVID-19 Pandemic to investigate the idea that most hold—that Maine’s lobster fishery is critically important to island and coastal communities—and that the investigation revealed how lobster brings both prosperity and vulnerability to our coast.


Sam Belknap currently serves as the Director of the Island Institute’s Center for Marine Economy where he oversees the organization’s efforts to create a diversified, climate friendly marine economy for the future of the islands and coast. Trained as a climate scientist and cultural anthropologist, Sam’s career has focused on the intersection of climate change, fishing, and Maine’s coastal communities. Sam is a third of four generations of his family to have held a commercial lobster fishing license and his passion for the marine sector in Maine runs deep. Sam also sits on the Executive Committee of the National Working Waterfront Network, the Steering Committee of Maine’s seafood roadmap initiative (SEAMaine), and the Coastal and Marine working group of the Maine Climate Council.

Rack of Eye: Managing Implicit Bias in Collections at the Steamship Historical Society” 


The maritime term “rack of eye” refers to boat building without blueprints or plans. This talk will share challenges met and methods used to highlight the work and life of underrepresented groups in The Steamship Historical Society of America’s (SSHSA) collections, including people of color, women, and lower income travelers. We embarked on these efforts before there was an organizational awareness of DEI or a plan to implement those values, and also before many gaps in description and metadata were identified in the collections. We had to create our own plan, and had to complete our work as a small team with limited resources. In addition to highlighting the digital tools available to researchers at SSHSA, this talk will offer a window into how archival collections can be used to tell previously unheard stories.


Astrid M. Drew is the archivist at the Steamship Historical Society of America, where she manages and organizes collections, and assists researchers and the public in learning more about the heritage of engine-powered vessels.  She holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Rhode Island, and earned her Masters of Library and Information Science, focusing in archives and preservation, from Simmons College.  She’s interested in digital archives, rare books, and finding creative ways to tell the stories of our past.

Bercaw Edwards

“Higher Education and Public History in the Midst of the Pandemic” 


The COVID-19 pandemic was a definite challenge for both public and academic education. During the pandemic, the Maritime Studies Program at the University of Connecticut had to find creative ways to teach students without diminishing the Program’s interdisciplinarity or experiential education elements. The pandemic was also a challenge for Mystic Seaport Museum, which had to find creative ways to reach the public when all learning had to occur masked and outdoors.


Mary K. Bercaw Edwards is Professor of English and Director of Maritime Studies at the University of Connecticut. Her most recent book, Sailor Talk: Labor, Utterance, and Meaning in the Works of Melville, Conrad, and London (2021), explores the language of sailors. Dr. Bercaw Edwards also works as a public historian in her role as the foreman of the demonstration team at Mystic Seaport Museum, which performs sailors’ tasks, including setting sails high aloft on the Museum’s square-rigged ships, for the public. A Coast Guard-licensed captain, Dr. Bercaw Edwards has 58,000 miles at sea, all under sail.


“Making waves in maritime scholarship: The rising tide of innovative work” 


Like the sea, maritime scholarship is a vast and sometimes unruly space. An arena of inquiry filled with tall ships and officers, traders and merchants, its multitudes also contain buccaneers and stowaways, fishwives and pirate-Jennys, and indigenous maritime people who both built polities and avoided them. This talk delves into the field’s major shifts over recent years and why those shifts matter. 


Jennifer L. Gaynor is an anthropologist and historian of Southeast Asia and its surrounding seas from the early modern period to the present. Her first book, Intertidal History in Island Southeast Asia: Submerged Genealogy and the Legacy of Coastal Capture (Cornell University Press, 2016), a work of decolonial historical praxis, recentered the contributions of Southeast Asian maritime people in regional and world historical perspectives. Her current projects look at the long history of Southeast Asia’s maritime dynamics and at the environmental politics of contemporary coastal transformations. Recent publications include: “Giving up the ghost: Rethinking Southeast Asia’s maritime past and its place in world history,” in World History Connected (2020); “The colonial origins of theorizing piracy’s relation to failed states,” in Piracy in World History, Stefan Eklöf Amirell, Bruce Buchanan, and Hans Hägerdal, eds. (Amsterdam University Press, 2021); and “The enduring sea cultures of Southeast Asia, seventh – seventeenth centuries,” in The Cambridge History of the Pacific Ocean, Volume I: The Pacific Ocean to 1800, Ryan Tucker Jones and Matt K. Matsuda, eds., Paul D’Arcy, general ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2022). In addition to fellowships at Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities, the Australian National University and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, she has taught history at Cornell, Michigan, and the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she is presently a Research Fellow in the Law School’s Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy. 


“Light Listening Podcast” 


Developed as a result of public history graduate coursework, the Light Listening website and corresponding podcast aims to reach those who are unable to experience the beauty and history of White Shoal Light in person, whatever the reason may be. The offshore light station is not easily accessible, and the COVID-19 pandemic and its ongoing impacts continue to highlight the site’s isolation and limited accessibility, with limited tourism foot traffic and dollars compared to other nearby historic sites and structures. As a digital history resource for all, the podcast provides audiences from near and far with firsthand accounts and explores themes of historical preservation, community engagement, and local history. 


Rebekah Hecht serves as Chief Historian with the White Shoal Light Historical Preservation Society and a Business Administrative Associate with the University of Illinois – Springfield (UIS). She earned a Masters in Public History from UIS, and she has also completed Historic Preservation and Regionalism studies at the University of New Mexico.  The Light Listening podcast and website is a product of her masters thesis. In addition to her ongoing scholarship with the White Shoal Light Historical Preservation, she serves on the Campus Advisory Board Member with the Sangamon Experience, and is a historical interpreter and collections analyst at the Edwards Place Historic Home, and works as a freelance researcher. Her background includes work as a flag conservationist with the Illinois State Military Museum, as well as an exhibition designer with the African American History Museum in Springfield, Illinois. 


“Cotton’s Ocean: Yankee Shipowners and the Antebellum Atlantic World”


Growing out of research for the Historical Atlas of Maine, “Cotton’s Ocean” examines the role played by Maine shipowners, particularly the Tuckers of Wiscasset, in transporting cotton from Southern cotton ports to Liverpool, England, in the mid-19th century. The most important international trade at the time, the cotton trade linked the world’s largest area of plantation agriculture to the greatest concentration of industrial manufacturing. While the cotton trade made shipping fortunes, reflected in many a grand antebellum house in coastal Maine, shipowners such as the Tuckers supported the South and were pro-slavery. This complicates our view of Maine as an Abolitionist state.    


Stephen J. Hornsby is Professor of Anthropology (Geography) and Canadian Studies at the University of Maine. Originally from southern England, Hornsby received his M.A. from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia. He joined the University of Maine in 1987. For much of his career at the university, he served as director of the Canadian-American Center, a federally-funded National Resource Center on Canada. He has published and co-edited several prize-winning books, including Surveyors of Empire: Samuel Holland, J.F.W. Des Barres, and the Making of the Atlantic Neptune (2011) and the Historical Atlas of Maine (2015). His latest book, Cod Coasts: Cultural Landscapes of the Cod Fishery from Cape Cod to Labrador, is in press. 

WATERVILLE, MAINE - SEPTEMBER 1: Portrait of new faculty member Dyani Taff at Colby College, Wednesday, September 1, 2021. (Photo by Tristan Spinski for Colby College)

“Telling and Retelling Maritime Stories”


Why do old plays, poems, and narratives matter to maritime scholarship? Should we continue to read the works of the proverbial dead white guys—like Shakespeare—here, now, in Maine? In this talk, Dr. Taff will describe how my research and teaching pursuits grapple with these questions. Then, she will sketch plans for new work focused on who speaks, who listens, and whose voices we have silenced in the long histories of maritime storytelling.


Dyani Johns Taff is Assistant Professor of English at Colby College. She writes and teaches about early modern literature, working at the intersection of gender studies and the maritime humanities, with explorations into environmental justice and premodern critical race studies. Her most recent essays are “Rivers and Bogs: Slow Protests in Aphra Behn’s Oronooko” (Coastal Studies and Society 2.1 March 2023) and “Dark Holes and Violent Allegories in The Faerie Queene” (Spenser Review 50.3.2 Fall 2020). She is currently writing a book titled Gendered Seascapes and Monarchy in Early Modern English Culture.


8:30 – 9:30 amCheck-in & Complimentary coffee 

9:30 – 10:30 am |
Welcome and Opening Remarks

Dr. Jennifer L. Gaynor “Making waves in maritime scholarship: The rising tide of innovative work” Research Fellow, Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, University at Buffalo, SUNY, School of Law

11:00 am – 12:00 pm |
Interdisciplinary Exploration 

Dr. Stephen J. Hornsby, “Cotton’s Ocean: Yankee Shipowners and the Antebellum Atlantic World,” Professor of Geography and Canadian Studies, University of Maine

Dr. Dyani Taff, “Telling and Retelling Maritime Stories” Assistant Professor of English, Colby College 

12:00 – 1:30 pm | Lunch

Bring your own lunch or enjoy your own offsite lunch in Bath; self-guided museum exploration.


1:30 – 2:30 pm | Digital Access and Engagement 

Rebekah Hecht, “Light Listening Podcast”  Chief Historian, White Shoal Light Historical Preservation Society 

Astrid Drew,Rack of Eye: Managing Implicit Bias in Collections at the Steamship Historical Society” Director of Archives and Collections, Steamship Historical Society of America


3:00 – 4:00 pm | Navigating Ahead 

Dr. Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, “Higher Education and Public History in the Midst of the Pandemic” Director of Maritime Studies Program, University of Connecticut 

Sam Belknap, “How do we know what we ‘know’?”  Director, Center for Marine Economy, Island Institute


4:00 – 5:30 pm | Closing Remarks and Reception

Connect further with Symposium attendees and guest speakers & light refreshments 


(Schedule subject to change)

Established in 1973, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first symposium held at Maine Maritime Museum. The symposium serves as an opportunity to connect, explore, and investigate the evolving field of maritime scholarship. Today the museum interprets and shares its collections with the Nathan R. Lipfert Research Library, educational programming, a boatshop, online resources, and permanent and special exhibitions.  


General program fee ($70) with 20% museum membership discount

Program supporter ($100 with additional donation)

Student (Free)

Educator (Free)

Volunteer – Maine Maritime Museum (Free)

Professional – Museum/Cultural Heritage (Free)


Thank you for supporting Maine Maritime Museum!


October 14, 2023
8:30 am - 5:30 pm
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Maine Maritime Museum
243 Washington St
Bath, ME 04530 United States
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