Summer Exhibition: Voyages and the Great Age of Sail | Arts & Culture

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Summer Exhibition: Voyages and the Great Age of Sail
Summer Exhibition:  Voyages and the Great Age of Sail


Saco, Maine— The University of New England and the Saco Museum will team up this summer to create an exhibition on the great age of sail in Maine. Dr. Elizabeth A. De Wolfe, Professor of History at the University of New England, and Camille Smalley, Program and Education Manager for the Saco Museum, will team-teach an exhibition class titled “Voyages and the Great Age of Sail.” The resulting exhibition of the same name, curated by students in the class, will feature a treasure trove of artifacts related to the Saco sea captain Tristram Jordan —paintings, decorative arts, navigational tools, and more—in order to explore nineteenth-century maritime history. The exhibition will be on view at the Saco Museum May 7 through September 4, 2011.  A free public opening reception will take place on Friday, May 6, at 5:30 p.m.

The course “Voyages and the Great Age of Sail,” offered through UNE’s History Department, will use the experiences of a Saco sea captain, Tristram Jordan, as a window into nineteenth-century maritime history. Students will study the letters of Captain Jordan and his wife, Catherine, as a way to understand Saco and Biddeford's role in this important period of New England history. Jordan, at sea in both the trans-Atlantic trade and coastal New England trade for months at a time, wrote long letters capturing both of the excitement of the sea and of the time he could return to land and simply farm. Catherine, at home in Saco, wrote to her distant husband of her struggles raising their children, running a household, and managing the family farm and business interests. The Jordans' story is filled with the excitement and the dangers of life at sea and the challenges for the family left behind at home. Captain Jordan's life, and that of his son Frederic, both come to tragic ends at sea. As students learn the Jordans' story, they will explore the local, regional and national issues that made this period so important in maritime history, connecting a local story to national, and indeed global, trends.

The major project of this course is for students to design a museum exhibit to share the Jordans' story with the public. As part of this hands-on history course, students will make decisions about each facet of the exhibition, including which elements of the story to tell, what background historical information to provide, and which artifacts to display. Students will tackle design issues such as the layout of the exhibit, the wall colors and look of the exhibit, and accessibility to diverse audiences. Students in this class will learn about an important period in American history as well as how historians make important choices in the stories they tell, both in writing and visually.

Students will also have the opportunity to help plan and execute programming. Several events and programs will be offered in conjunction with this exhibition. Family events such as learning about nautical equipment, shipwrecks, buried treasure and seafaring imagery will occur throughout the summer 2011, as well as other on-and-off site outreach. So come down to the Saco Museum this summer and experience the great age of sail’s heroism and tragedies! 

Image caption: Artist Unidentified (possibly William Stoodley Gookin, Saco, 1799-1872), Captain Tristram Jordan (1798-1856), circa 1830-1840, oil on canvas, Saco Museum Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Hicks from the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jordan Patterson; Spyglass owned by Captain Tristram Jordan, circa 1800-1840, brass, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Hicks from the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jordan Patterson.