The Frank C. Munson Institute promotes learning, research, and the sharing of knowledge through annual summertime graduate courses in American maritime history, the support of research, and the dissemination of information. Through lectures, conferences, networking, and the Paul Cuffe Memorial Fellowship the Institute fosters the advanced study of the American maritime experience.
The Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport–The Museum of America and the Sea, was founded in 1955 by Edouard Stackpole, curator of the museum, and Robert Albion, Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History at Harvard University. The graduate program was endowed by Cora Mallory Munson of Mystic’s historic Mallory family, in honor of her husband, shipping magnate Frank C. Munson. The Munson Institute “served as the Museum’s department of higher education,” wrote its director Ben Labaree in 1995. He noted then that “a remarkable number of museum directors and curators in the maritime field are graduates of the Munson Institute program,” while today it might be added that, having used the vast collections at Mystic Seaport, a substantial number of professors at colleges and universities around the country are also Munson alumni.
The Munson Institute also awards the Paul Cuffe Fellowships annually to scholars researching the role of minority groups in maritime America. The body of research amassed by Cuffe recipients and Munson graduates has added greatly to the multicultural face of American history, providing important resources in the examination of maritime Americans. More recently, the Munson graduate program has incorporated new scholarship with an environmental focus.
An NEH Summer Institute in 2012, The American Maritime People, provided an excellent opportunity for surveying the exciting new developments in the field of American maritime studies that are taking place rapidly, integrating the social and cultural approaches that have been so influential since the 1960s, with the new environmental perspectives that are increasingly important.