Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's My Line?

Here's a request for reader input, from your faithful blogger.

I enjoy doing this blog -- enjoy the reading and the writing, and receiving comments from readers is so gratifying. I'd like to take my understanding of the subject matter to another level, and I suspect this means formal education. Whether I could actually fit grad school into my life is an open question, but one I'm willing to consider.

Problem is, I don't know what academic subject or program I should be looking into. Is this blog about anthropology? Marine history? Nautical archaeology? Some obscure branch of naval architecture? Is it possible I'm barking up the wrong tree -- that a serious study of this subject falls somewhere outside of academia?

Your suggestions will be appreciated.



  1. What would be most complimentary to your current vocation? I'm thinking history, maybe a specific area. ~ Anneli

  2. Bob, I'm not convinced formal education is the way to go. Take the example of Harvey Golden. He has visited over 120 museums in several countries to study and document traditional kayaks. He's written a huge (500 + pages) treatise on Greenland Kayaks, is working on a book on Alaskan Kayaks which will be as big, and then one on Canadian Kayaks. He might be able to give you some guidance. I don't think his formal education is in his area of research. I have found him quite affable.

  3. I see you developing a unique theory of boats as markers for the development of culture. A synthesis of all the topics you mention.
    A book.

  4. Everytime I begin to think about going back to school I usually end up skimming through this:

    From which I ask, If you were the Dean of the school of indigenous boats how would you design your curriculum, take a class at the wooden boat center, fly to the south pacific, go to its museums, meet its boat builders, you could live in parts of SE Asia for a few hundred a month take photos, measure boats, shoot video... Seeing the hands of a craftsman, tells you a lot, making tells you more. Find out who does the acquisitions for significant museums, go meet them, maybe you'd get to see the back room. Apply for a stint of research at the smithsonian (I think you get pretty amazing access if they accept you)

    You are correct it is hard to pigeon hole, the boats you share with us are a composite of a people, their land, its trees and how they use them. Can that even be taught in a classroom in Cambridge?

  5. I wouldn't bother with a degree unless it was a requirement for certain sorts of jobs that you were after.
    If you did decide that you really wanted an advanced degree in boats, the hardest part would be to find an adviser that would support your research.
    I would suggest you just write some books on your favorite boating topics. You are after all a writer and can turn out readable prose which is more than can be said about a lot of academic writers.
    My own experience with writing a how-to book about Aleutian kayaks is that it gave me a certain credibility on the topic. I know of at least two academics who have copies of it. Who knows, there might be more.
    In any case, if you put the same amount of energy into writing as you would have to put into getting a degree, you would be way ahead just writing some books and making a name for yourself that way.

  6. I'm a college professor, so I do believe in formal education if the person works best with structure. I loved the structure that a university education gave me. I met the right people, had resources available not easily open to the nonstudent, and etc.

    I thrived in structure but often went my own way: for example, arranging my own anthropological fieldwork travels studying Irish folklore at my own expense (since the news was not always good as to grant money).

    Later in life I took up maritime interests, built my own outrigger sailing canoe after reading about that culture. I now wish I had known what would fire me up: a program in maritime anthropology would have been great but I got some of what I wanted through my own 'course'.

    So what kind of person are you? Do you need structure to put you on the road? Have you been a self-starter in other areas of your life and thus have a good chance in this area? Answer those questions. Maybe take one course in maritime anthropology, see how it suits you. If none nearby, seek an on-line course.

    If not that, find a syllabus for a maritime anthropology or archaeology course and just read the books for that course. Professors will usually help you with reading lists. Good luck! But most of all, have fun. --Wade

  7. Well, my dear friend, perhaps you are opening a new discipline: BOATLOGY or CANOESOPHY... Anyway, your approach is unique and you must proceed this fantastic inquiry.