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The USS Constitution and the War of 1812

Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

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.

Dates: July 22–26 or August 5–9
Director(s): Sarah Watkins and Rebecca Crawford
Grantee Institutions: USS Constitution Museum
Location: Boston, MA

About NEH Landmarks of American History: Workshops for School Teachers

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the federal government. As part of the NEH’s We the People program, we offer the following Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers. NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops provide the opportunity for K-12 educators to engage in intensive study and discussion of important topics in American history and culture. These one-week programs will give participants direct experiences in the interpretation of significant historical and cultural sites and the use of archival and other primary evidence. Landmarks Workshops present the best scholarship on a specific landmark or related cluster of landmarks, enabling participants to gain a sense of the importance of historical places, to make connections between what they learn in the Workshop and what they teach, and to develop enhanced teaching or research materials.

Amount of Award

Teachers selected to participate will receive a stipend of $1,200 at the end of the residential Workshop session. Stipends are intended to help cover living expenses, books, and travel expenses to and from the Workshop location.


These projects are designed principally for classroom teachers and librarians in public, charter, independent, and religiously-affiliated schools, as well as home schooling parents. Other K-12 school personnel, including administrators, substitute teachers, and classroom professionals, are eligible to participate, subject to available space.

Teachers at schools in the United States or its territorial possessions or Americans teaching in foreign schools where at least 50 percent of the students are American nationals are eligible for this program. Applicants must be United States citizens, residents of U.S. jurisdictions, or foreign nationals who have been residing in the United States or its territories for at least the three years immediately preceding the application deadline. Foreign nationals teaching abroad at non-U.S. chartered institutions are not eligible to apply.

Applicants must complete the NEH application and provide all of the information requested to be considered eligible.

New this year: An individual may apply to up to two NEH Summer Programs in any one year (Landmarks Workshops, Summer Seminars, or Summer Institutes), but may participate in only one. Please note that eligibility criteria differ significantly between the Landmarks Workshops and the Seminars and Institutes Programs.

How to Apply

Please e-mail, telephone or send by U.S. Post a request for application information and expanded Workshop descriptions to the Landmarks directors listed here; in many cases, these materials will also be available on project Web sites. You may request information about as many Workshops as you like, and, as noted above, you may apply to up to two programs but participate in only one.