High School Students Explore Maritime History

Sep 13, 2012

by Johnathan Thayer, Archivist

This summer, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) joined with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer to host student interns as part of the City of New York Student History Internship Program. Stringer’s office launched the program in 2006 to “give a select number of New York City students work experience” at archives and museum repositories, encouraging high school students to “see the history of our city right outside your own door.” Manhattan Deputy Borough Historian Sharon Wilkins served as liaison between the interns and their host institutions.

SCI’s participation in the program manifests the significance of the Institute’s 178-year history within the larger history of Manhattan. New York’s rise to become America’s most populous city initially depended on its success as a maritime port. The landscape of Lower Manhattan’s shift from port to financial center reveals the essential role that shipping has played in the City’s development. SCI’s Archives document this development in great detail, making them an invaluable resource for researchers of maritime New York.

Mohan Hasan and Tasnim Ahmed, both students at Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan, were selected after a rigorous application process. They spent their five-week internships working with me in the SCI Archives. Mohan and Tasnim gained experience processing records, re-housing historic photographs and conducting research using primary source materials. Look for postings from both of our interns on their research in the coming weeks.

Following the transfer of SCI’s Archives to Queens College Libraries Special Collections and Archives in June 2011, I have worked with students—from high school to graduate school—to provide hands-on experience with archival materials and develop our archives program. In addition to Tasnim and Mohan, a total of five students from the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies have worked with the Archives over the past year on semester-long projects for course credit towards the completion of their degrees. Graduate students have contributed to the archives by helping to build the SCI Digital Archives website as well as digital exhibits including “Labor Issues on New York’s Waterfront.”

We look forward to new collaborations as the new 2012-2013 academic year begins this fall.