Merchant Marine Oral History Interview Day to be Held at Penobscot Marine Museum

usmerchant-marine-sealThe Penobscot Marine Museum is partnering with the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) to host a day of oral history interviews with merchant mariners on June 24, 2014, from 10-4. During this event, mariners will be invited to come to the museum to record their stories with SCI researchers and volunteers as part of the American Merchant Marine Veterans Oral History Project. Photo archivists at the museum will also be gathering feedback from mariners on their photo collections. The Penobscot Marine Museum will be offering reduced admission for mariners on the day of the interviews ($6). The interviews will be archived and made available as a robust online repository of stories of the sea.

Merchant mariners have contributed significantly to the security and prosperity of the nation–the online archive created by this project brings the compelling stories of local seafarers to light. Johnathan Thayer, SCI Archivist and leader of the project, has interviewed veteran mariners in the Port of New York and New Jersey. “Their remarkable tales represent largely overlooked perspectives within American history,” he says. Johnathan recounts the story of John Ludwick, also known as “Kansas,” who, although he survived the crossing of dangerous WWII North Atlantic waters in a convoy that lost 17 of 33 ships, found himself mistakenly imprisoned in a camp at Leningrad. He tells the story of his escape, stealing a Russian snowmobile and riding it hundreds of miles through arctic tundra back to his ship.

Toiling on board ships often months at a time, merchant mariners work out of the public eye, but SCI—since its very beginnings—has endeavored to bring their labors to light. Through its American Merchant Marine Veterans Oral History Project, SCI helps mariners gain recognition and dignity in the historic record through their own words and Mariners interested in participating should RSVP to Maine-based SCI researcher Michele Christle at michele.christle@gmail.com or at 603-781-9848 to schedule a time for an interview. If transportation or health is an issue, mariners are encouraged to contact Michele Christle for alternative participation methods.

For more information about this event, please contact: Michele Christle, 603-781-9848 michele.christle@gmail.com

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