Sunday, August 23, 2009

Putting the "port" back in Portsmouth

This is a post that I started back on May 17th of 2008, according to my saved draft. I remember that it was sparked by an article I read in one of the free local papers, written by a well-known professor of maritime history at UNH, Jeffrey Bolster (who later served on my thesis committee). The article addressed the maritime history of Portsmouth and it inspired me to begin this post (though apparently not to finish it).

At any rate, I believe I remember a few sentences and the general thrust of the article. Bolster pointed out the odd conundrum of Portsmouth as a tourist destination - it's a seaport city, but without a beach. The nearest beaches are in Rye (to the south) and Kittery (to the north). However, Portsmouth is still a working port and its bridges, cargo ships, tugs, and old warehouses seem to be a good starting point for reminding visitors to the city of its maritime heritage.

I attended the Tall Ships event at the state pier a couple of weekends ago and it was neat to see all the local organizations that have some connection to the maritime history and environment in this region. They ranged from historical organizations like Strawbery Banke and the Gundalow Company to scientific/environmental organizations like Great Bay Stewards and University of New Hampshire Marine Docents and business organizations like the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce. And the whole event was made possible by the Piscataqua Maritime Commission.

It seemed to me that the large turnout at the event and the good number of organizations in the NH Seacoast for promoting and interpreting the region's maritime history were a perfect match. It's reassuring, in a way, to see that there are many others who care about ensuring that both visitors and locals understand and appreciate the ways in which Portsmouth, and other towns along the Piscataqua, have always been connected to the sea.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Love this!

The Massachusetts Historical Society recently started twittering the short entries that John Quincy Adams penned in his journal during his time in Russia in the early 1800s. His short, one or two line entries lend themselves well to the "short update" style of the medium. These early entries recording his trip to Russia tend to include the current location of their ship (the Horace), an observation about the weather, and a notation of what he was reading at the time. For example, one of my favorites to date, "8/6/1809: Thick fog. Scanty Wind - On George’s Bank. Lat: 42-34. Read Massillon’s CarĂªme Sermons 2 & 3. Ladies &c. Sick."

I think this is a wonderful way to connect with people who might never be interested in a former president's journals. It's also a smart way to marry Web 2.0 technology with traditional methods of historical research. And I'm sure it doesn't hurt that they have received a lot of publicity about the project & donations to help support it - certainly two things all museums can appreciate.

Cheers to the Mass. Historical Society for this exciting project!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I'm Back!

Had a wonderful time on vacation, but happy to be back for a bit. As you probably noticed, I did not have any internet connection on vacation & therefore did not post at all. Hope you were able to survive without me!

I came home to a really interesting post on one of my favorite blogs, Curious Expeditions. They wrote about the history of scrimshaw and posted some lovely examples from the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. Check it out.