top of page


June 17-21 or

July 8-12

(Same schedule repeats)

Live Schedule for June 17-21 Workshop
Live Schedule for July 8-12 Workshop
Workshop Day-by-Day Description
Our five-day schedule includes four guests scholars, as well as walking tours (and a guided bus tour of the Ports of Newark and Elizabeth in June). Daily discussions will link our readings to the site visits. Participants will have opportunity to share their independent work if desired, and some reflection sessions will include writing. A day-by-day outline of our schedule follows. We will share a detailed schedule once participants are accepted. All speakers and site visits are subject to change.
  • Day 1: Orientation, Introductions, and the Native American Uses of New York's Waterways
  • Day 2:  Maritime Migration and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
  • Day 3 —Port Newark and the Future of New York Harbor (in week 2: Staten Island and the National Lighthouse Museum)
  • Day 4 — Port Authority, Memory Cultures, and the Reengineering of New York’s Waterfront 
  • Day 5 — Preserving Maritime Histories, Remediating Harbor Ecologies
Monday, Day 1 / Orientation, Introductions, and the Native American Uses of New York's Waterways


The first day of our institute will begin at 10am, with introductions and orientation. We will meet on the Upper West Side for a talk by Dr. Andrew Lipman, a professor of early American history at Barnard College. Professor Lipman will speak about his book, The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast.

In the afternoon, Professor Lipman will lead us on a tour of Inwood Park in upper Manhattan, where he will discuss indigenous and colonial uses of the waterways. We may be joined by other guides.  

Tuesday, Day 2 / Maritime Migration and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

In the morning we will meet at the Museum of Chinese in America where we will be joined by Dr. John Kuo Wei Tchen, a scholar of Chinese immigration and estuarial eco-histories of the New York City harbor. Dr. Tchen’s research, in his own words, “links the work of the China trade and the formation of Chinatown to new research tracing the dispossession of Munsee Lunaape from the region and the related ‘importing’ of enslaved labor. These extractivist practices foreshadowed the massive industrialization and manufacturing that was to proliferate in the 19th century.” Dr. Tchen will also discuss his work with the New York City Panel on Climate Change and recent research that explores how the impacts of early settler colonialism have led to ecological imbalances in the New York–New Jersey estuary. Linking the histories of immigration with environmental concerns, Dr. Tchen’s talk will offer us an ideal transition between days two and three of our workshop.

In the afternoon we will take a walking tour of lower Manhattan and South Street Seaport with a special focus on African American histories in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, Day 3 / Week 1: Port Newark, Port Elizabeth, and the Future of New York Harbor / Week 2: Staten Island and the National Lighthouse Museum


Our third day will differ in the June and July workshops.

On June 19, we will take the PATH train to Newark, New Jersey to visit the
Port Newark, also run by the Port Authority. It is the largest container port in the eastern United States and it handles the vast majority of containerized goods that are shipped into and out of the Northeast. First opened in the early twentieth century, its history tells the story of changes in shipping, manufacturing, and the waning strength of longshoreman unions in New York City. We will take a charter bus from Newark Penn Station to the Port of Newark, where Dr. Angus Gillespie, whose book Port Newark and the Origins of Container Shipping examines the construction and expansion of this port, to provide us with a tour of the area via bus. 

We will begin the morning with discussion at the Seamen's Church Institute along with an early lunch. Then we will board the bus to tour the port areas of Newark and Elizabeth and meet with mariners and workers. Dr. Gillespie also discuss containerization from the 1960s to the present, a phenomenon that facilitated the rise of newly global supply chains and “just in time production.” On our ride back to Newark Penn Station, we will wrap up our visit and reflect on our learning. 

In the July workshop, Dr. Gillespie will instead take up on the historic Staten Island ferry to visit the
National Lighthouse Museum in Staten Island. We will discuss the importance of Staten Island in the history of the harbor, and environmental adaptations made to New York harbor over the course of its history as a port.

Thursday, Day 4 — Port Authority, Memory Cultures, and the Reengineering of New York’s Waterfront 

On the fourth day of our workshop, we will learn about the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public agency that has been tasked with managing commerce and transportation infrastructures within, across, and beyond those two states since 1921. The Port Authority has also participated in massive development projects related to these infrastructures, including the bridges and tunnels crossing the Hudson and East rivers, as well as the landfill developments of lower Manhattan, including Battery Park City and the World Trade Center.


We will be joined by Dr. Marita Sturken, Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and author of the book Terrorism in American Memory: Memorials, Museums, and Architecture in the Post-9/11 Era. In her talk and discussion, Dr. Sturken will provide further analysis of the Lower Manhattan waterfront, its architecture, and its role in a re-invented post-9/11 world of commerce. She will talk to us about the role of the Port Authority in building the original twin towers, and the roles of real estate development and memory culture in the transformation of lower Manhattan from a port zone into a center of global finance. 

We will follow this with an afternoon session of "Lightning Talk" presentations on research and teaching projects by workshop participants. Our day will end with discussion and reflection on the week's activities thus far.

Friday, Day 5 — Preserving Maritime Histories, Remediating Harbor Ecologies

The final day of our workshop will explore two themes. First, we will read and learn about the labor practices of maritime industries and their effects on the demographics of neighborhoods near port areas. Secondly, we will explore the harbor itself—its histories, its geographies, and the cycles of ecological pollution and remediation it has endured. Possible site visits include the Billion Oyster Project, a project centered on the island that attempts to restore the health of oyster populations that once flourished in New York Harbor. The project is located on Governor’s Island a former military base in New York Harbor that possesses a rich and varied history that reflects the changing dynamics of the region over time. During the day, we will be joined by other organizations involved in the protection of the harbor, which are also working to make the waterfront more accessible to those from underserved communities.

Header image is a video still of the John J. Harvey fireboat in action, painted by artist Tauba Auerbach in an optical art design for a Public Art Fund project. Videographer unknown. Used courtesy of the Public Art Fund and fair use guidelines. 

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

bottom of page