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  • All Astir
  • Mary K. Bercaw Edwards

The K-12 Teachers' Institute, "Herman Melville's Moby-Dick & the World of Whaling in the Digital Age," was a resounding success. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fully funded the Institute, jointly sponsored by the Melville Society and New Bedford Whaling Museum. Timothy Marr (Univ. of North Carolina) served as director and four of the remaining five members of the Melville Society Cultural Project served as faculty: Jennifer Baker (New York Univ.), Mary K. Bercaw Edwards (Univ. of Connecticut), Christopher Sten (George Washington Univ.), and Robert K. Wallace (Northern Kentucky Univ.). Also assisting with the Institute were scholar John Bryant, curator Christina Connett, maritime historian Michael P. Dyer, artist Matt Kish, musician David Peloquin, librarian Mark Procknik, and poet and biographer Laurie Robertson-Lorant. New Bedford Whaling Museum's Sarah Rose and Joclyne Nunes provided tremendous support as did Paula Marr. The teachers who participated in the Institute came from as far away as Alaska and included a Mathematics teacher who suggested wonderful ways to use Moby-Dick in her classroom, a teacher from a correctional facility on Martha's Vineyard, another who teaches the children of US Marines in a school run by the Department of Defense on the Carolina coastal islands, and a mariner who teaches for St. George's School in Newport, RI, which runs the 69-foot sail training vessel Geronimo. Some were new to Moby-Dick; others had published books on Melville's work. Some were brand-new teachers; others had many years of experience. Some were old salts, with many sea miles; others had never been on the ocean. Such diversity was one of the greatest strengths of the Institute.

The two weeks—June 17–30, 2018—were packed. Each morning was filled with discussion, both all together and in smaller groups, of the assigned chapters from Moby-Dick. The afternoons included a presentation by one of the lead faculty, followed by a two-hour expedition. During the final two days of the Institute, each participant presented a project on incorporating Moby-Dick into the classroom. The projects were rich and engaging, making us envy the students of these inspiring teachers. The weekends were bursting, too. On Saturday June 23, the participants drove to Mystic Seaport Museum, where we crawled through the hold of the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, then [End Page 133] rowed whaleboats, imagining ourselves in the roles of Ishmael, Pip, Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo, Starbuck, Stubb, Flask, or Ahab. On Sunday, June 24, we took the ferry to Nantucket, where we explored the Whaling Museum and had a Melville-themed walking tour. On the final day, Saturday June 30, we crossed the state of Massachusetts to visit Melville's home, Arrowhead, standing reverently before the window of his study and reveling in his words: "I have a sea-feeling here in the country . . . I look out of my window in the morning when I rise as I would out of a port-hole of a ship in the Atlantic" (letter to Evert Duyckinck, December 13, 1850; Correspondence 173). Then we moved on to the riches of the Melville Room in the Berkshire Athenaeum, before climbing Monument Mountain. Wallace's wonderful account of the Institute can be found at <>.

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Participants in "Herman Melville's Moby-Dick & the World of Whaling in the Digital Age" row a whaleboat on the Mystic River with the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan at left and the 1882 training ship Joseph Conrad at right in the background. Nate Rumney serves as boatheader. June 23, 2018.

Photo courtesy of Chris McEnroe.

One of the joys of the Teachers' Institute was showing participants the Moby-Dick art that has been collected by the Melville Society and stored in its New Bedford Archive. The Melville Society Cultural Project spends $500 annually [End Page 134] to acquire contemporary Moby-Dick art under the guidance of Robert K. Wallace. A list of pieces in the collection can be found at <>. Wallace will be publishing an illustrated essay in next year's Leviathan describing recent additions to the...


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