Academics

Munson InstituteThe Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport Museum invites your participation in five weeks of advanced study.

Through the Institute’s Survey, Seminar and Independent Research courses, participants will study the American maritime past – the vast number of seafarers and citizens of shoreside communities who have shaped this country even as they shaped, and were shaped by their maritime environment. Working on the sea and on the inland rivers and lakes, these people transformed the United States through developments in transportation, technology, the national economy, naval forces, and international diplomacy.

Their history offers a naturally dramatic and compelling way to understand the national identity as well as the interaction between humankind and nature. With an economy based on container shipping and a foreign policy that relies heavily on the navy, the United States citizenry continues to be deeply dependent on these maritime activities, just as it is dependent on the health of the world’s oceans.

The Munson Institute employs interdisciplinary perspectives on American maritime studies, with an emphasis on the most recent social, cultural and environmental approaches. The institute samples four hundred years of American maritime history. Attention is placed on the most influential recent work in maritime studies, much of it by scholars who are members of the Munson faculty.

Munson Institute reading list

Faculty studies examine a wide range of topics: the maritime environment in New England, Native American mariners, empire and the use of naval power, gender, race, and ethnicity, the historic impact of fisheries on the natural stocks and human culture; 19th century whaling and Herman Melville, the development of marine science and coastal recreation immigration by sea, and the cruise industry.

The curriculum also includes regular field seminars including trips to Stonington, New London and Groton, Connecticut, as well as New Bedford and Mashantucket. The field seminars will also feature maritime tours from the perspective of the water with cruises under steam, aboard a science vessel and a replica whaleboat.

Mystic SeaportMost of the Munson Institute takes place in coastal Connecticut at beautiful Mystic Seaport, one of the largest and most comprehensive maritime museums in the world. The Museum covers seventeen acres, with sixty historic buildings, and more than five hundred historic vessels.

The Institute will take special advantage of primary source materials from the vast manuscript collections of the G. W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport; the facilities of the Conservation Resource Center at the Museum, where artifacts and photographs are preserved for research; and the public exhibits of Mystic Seaport itself.

These facilities create a unique and inspiring campus. These resources, in the way of faculty, skills, collections, and natural setting have helped the Munson Institute to garner repeated awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities to host NEH Summer Institutes for College and University Faculty. This rare honor has been awarded to the Munson Institute six times within the past eleven years.

Survey, Seminar, and Independent Research Courses

“America Goes to Sea” Maritime History Survey Course
Meeting three mornings a week, and on field seminars, this course explores maritime America from before Columbus to the present, tracing a variety of topics in roughly chronological order. Subjects include gender, race, and class, international commerce, the evolution of new technologies, the history of U.S. naval forces, and the development of seaport communities. The survey closes with discussion of current issues facing the oceans and the nation, building on earlier environmental history and policy discussions.

“American Maritime History Seminar”
Meeting two afternoons a week, and on field seminars, this course is built around classroom discussion based on selected peer reviewed articles and books. Integrated with the topics covered in the lecture classes, the readings are often authored by the faculty member leading the conversation.

Independent Research in Maritime History”
This course supports research into the wide menu of topics that can be found in the G.W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport. The 75,000 books, one million pieces of manuscript and innumerable articles, journals and serial publications are all at the student’s disposal. Topic selection and research is guided by the Munson Institute faculty.