October 9, 2015

Harrington '16 Broadens Love for History at Marine Museum

History major Katherine Harrington '16 landed an internship at Marine Museum in Fall River, Mass. Her position challenges her thinking while giving her the opportunity to create programs for the public.

History major Katherine Harrington '16 loves stories - particularly stories that were either never told or that have fallen to the wayside. With a minor in gender and women's studies, Harrington will focus her Senior Distinction Project on gender and masculinity of pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy (1650s-1730s), through which she will share the stories of some forgotten pirates and argue that the only requirement to be a pirate was in the ability to assimilate to "maritime masculinity." 

"I had a genuine desire to search for the important lessons from people who came before me and to share those lessons with others," Harrington said.

Maria Varin, director of the Marine Museum at Fall River, was a guest speaker in one of Harrington's history classes with Assistant Professor of History Jeffrey Fortin - and Harrington made it a point to introduce herself. Her go-getter attitude and recommendation from Dr. Fortin helped land Harrington an internship at the museum this semester.  The museum aims to preserve marine history, promote life on the water and preserve artifacts and traditions that comprise marine culture for future generations; it also works in collaboration with its neighbor Battleship Cove, the world's largest and most diverse collection of history naval vessels, aircraft and other naval artifacts. Harrington works at both locations. 

"I am lucky to have this unique opportunity to intern at such a special, small and recently rejuvenated museum where I can express my opinions, ask questions, express autonomy and get feedback," Harrington said, who works directly with Varin. "I am constantly challenged to approach what I know differently and think abstractly. It's a lot of work, but it's fun!"

Within just a few weeks of working at the museum, Harrington got the opportunity to partake in a museum event that connects to her senior project: Pirate Day. As an intern, she has been able to attend behind-the-scenes tours, help plan events and design exhibits, interact with several museum professionals and create educational programs for local schools and the public.

Harrington's history major has a special concentration in education, as she not only has a passion for history, but for helping others; her task of creating programs has been both "scary" and "awesome," because "my own touch is going to be there." She hopes her programming will reveal her passions.

"I think maybe more than the actual history itself, I am learning a lot about myself through this position. I have always loved education, because it allowed me to work with students and their personal development," Harrington said.

Since she has entered the museum world, Harrington wants to explore her interests in ways she didn't know were possible before. For quite some time, she wanted to be a social studies or history teacher, but now she has entertained the idea of pursuing a library sciences master's program, which would allow her to do lots of research, present her findings and share this knowledge with others.

The internship has "allowed me to hone in on what truly interests me and want to continue developing," she said. "I am constantly learning and figuring out what I like, what I don't like, and which direction I want to see myself going in the future."  

Coinciding with her internship position, Harrington has a bi-weekly internship meeting with Dr. Fortin and other history majors. After a recent meeting ended, she said everyone remained to talk about life and their futures.

"That's a really special and regular occurrence within the history department," Harrington said. "Being a history major at Emmanuel is really special.  The history faculty goes above and beyond to help me succeed and find my passions, the classes are challenging in the best way, and since it isn't the most popular major, we make a dynamic group of passionate history majors."

The choice to be a history major was an obvious choice for Harrington. Her interest in history comes from her father who always told her stories of their family and general history; he focused on the histories of "regular" people, their lives and struggles as opposed to the elite's point of view.

"Being an Emmanuel history major lets me explore all different avenues," Harrington said.  "This major allows me the freedom to analyze all aspects of the past, the humanities and of life in general, and then attempt to make sense of it all."

Harrington's interest in pirates stemmed from her interest in social justice issues. After taking Dr. Fortin's "Pirates, Rascals and Scoundrels" course, she was shocked to learn that pirates, who are notorious for their hardened lifestyles of danger and crime, were pretty progressive on many social and cultural issues. Harrington feels that pirates were often misunderstood and are quite relatable to her generation of progressive doers and thinkers.

As for life after graduation, "I see myself in a career where I can work with helping others and personal development, while also incorporating history and education. My major at Emmanuel and this internship will help me achieve just that," she said. 

Katherine Harrington '16 stands with the sailing ship, Patchet.

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