Two one-week workshops for eighty school teachers on the naval War of 1812 and its most important and complex artifact, the United States frigate Constitution, anchored in Boston.
In connection with the War of 1812 bicentennial, the USS Constitution Museum organizes a new workshop around an "underrepresented" war, using the frigate Constitution to tell the story, not just of "technology and tactics," but also the broader significance of the war in its time and in the national collective memory. Although the Constitution served in other conflicts, the ship achieved iconic status for her role in three inspiring victories against the Royal Navy in the War of 1812. Participants read Donald Hickey's The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict; Stephen Budiansky's Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Great Britain on the High Seas; A Sailor's Life (forthcoming) by Sarah Watkins and Matthew Brenckle; J. C. A. Stagg's Mr. Madison's War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the Early American Republic; Madison's declaration of war; and the 1814 Treaty of Ghent. Other readings are provided in a workshop notebook; the teachers also use the Museum's web-based curriculum guide, All Hands on Deck. Joining lead scholar Donald Hickey is Robert Allison, who has written on Stephen Decatur; Margherita Desy of the Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment in Boston; Bill Fowler, author of Silas Talbot: Captain of Old Ironsides; Sidney Hart, curator at the National Portrait Gallery; and Gene Smith, who is currently writing about African-American combatants in the War of 1812. The daily progression of topics begins with the debates that led to the start of the war, then turns to the major naval battles. Wednesday and Thursday's program features stories of "Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times," and the week concludes with "memory and meaning" themes to deepen participants' understanding of the impact of the War of 1812. With the Constitution's rich trove of artifacts-some 10,000 in all-the ship serves as the major landmark of the workshop, and teachers have opportunities to explore spaces usually "off limits" to the public, including the captain's cabin, surgeon's cockpit, and the magazine. The teachers also visit Boston sites, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Black Heritage Trail, and the Federal-style Harrison Gray Otis House.