Council of American Maritime Museums

2018 Annual Conference – Bermuda

Maritime museums serve as the frontline in preserving the material culture of our seafaring past and interpreting it to audiences young and old, landlubbers and old salts alike.

These museums vary from publicly funded large institutions to small seasonal facilities, some operating on shoestring budgets. What they share in common is the mission to keep our maritime heritage alive by engaging the public.

Each spring, directors, curators, and educators gather at a host museum for the Council of American Maritime Museums annual conference.

This year, panel topics included how to best attract and engage younger generations, and how maritime museums can prepare for—and recover from—disasters,

both natural and man-made.

In 2014 back-to-back hurricanes in less than a week’s time severely damaged.

The National Museum of Bermuda (formerly the Bermuda Maritime Museum),

housed at the historic Royal Naval Dockyard, including considerable injury to historic structures, facilities, and artifacts.

The museum’s director, Elena Strong, and her staff shared lessons learned from the experience, and a considerable portion of the conference addressed disaster planning.

As most maritime museums are situated in waterfront locations, this is a pressing concern for all in the field.

I attended this year’s conference to address the topic of how to more effectively reach young people and gave a presentation encouraging museum.

leaders to get involved with an already dedicated group of young scholars through.

National History Day, with which the National Maritime Historical Society is actively involved.

More than 600,000 middle and high school students participate in National History Day events each year, and these young people should be further encouraged by their local maritime museums,

to keep their interest going and expose them to maritime topics for their research projects.

Out at the National Museum of Bermuda grounds, we were excited to tour the recently completed renovations and get an opportunity to visit both with Dr.

Edward Harris, who just retired after decades at the helm, and Elena Strong, who takes over as the museum’s executive director.

I was particularly impressed with how many museums are trying to attract new audiences,

and to re-inspire longtime members, through innovative exhibits and programs.

Duncan MacLeod from the Vancouver Maritime Museum discussed that institution’s recent efforts to engage the Japanese community of Vancouver by producing an exhibit on the local fishing community,

whose fleet of boats was destroyed during World War II when Japanese-Canadians in the region were interned.

Nantucket Historical Association’s Michael Harrison described how his organization is reconnecting to.

the local community by looking beyond the classic Nantucket whaling history and inviting.

Nantucketers to share their contemporary relationships with watercraft of all kinds.

Jane Downing of our host museum, the National Museum of Bermuda, gave a fascinating presentation on 400 years of piloting in Bermuda,

Council of American Maritime Museums describing how for many years in its early history,

Bermuda pilots were nearly all slaves, and the nature of how that played out in maritime commerce and society ashore.

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