National Park Service Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow: African Americans in Pacific Maritime History
American Conservation Experience (ACE)
EPIC Program, National Park Service (NPS) Division
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (SAFR), San Francisco, California. The Fellow will need to be on site at least part-time and should live within a reasonable commuting distance. A partially remote/teleworking arrangement is possible.
Temporary, Full-time, Exempt
Position is fully funded through August 31, 2026
On or about August 26, 2024
SAFR encompasses 50 acres on the city’s northern waterfront, in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, and includes the Aquatic Park Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. It was founded in 1988, charged by Congress with preserving and interpreting “the history and achievements of seafaring Americans and of the Nation’s maritime heritage, especially on the Pacific Coast.” Because the Park’s resources are primarily non-military, interpretation at SAFR usually tends in the same direction.
The Park property includes historic ships and boats (six of which are National Historic Landmarks), museum and research collections, exhibition spaces, open spaces, and a large bathhouse built by the WPA for the people of San Francisco in 1939. Hyde Street Pier is home to two square-rigged sailing ships, two steam tugs, and a massive historic ferryboat, all preserved and floating on the water of San Francisco Bay. The Visitor Center, in a historic cannery building, provides a location for the exhibition of selections from SAFR’s museum collections. The Sala Burton Maritime Museum Building, a WPA gem built in the streamline moderne style, features its original maritime-themed murals and artwork by Hilaire Hiler, Sargent Johnson, Beniamino Bufano, and others. It serves also as an exhibition space and site for public events, including talks and monthly chantey sings. Open spaces include two small greenspace parks, a bocce ball court, and the tiny strip of sandy beach known as Aquatic Park.
The Park’s Maritime Research Center houses archival and research materials that make up the largest maritime research collection on the North American Pacific coast. SAFR’s museum collections include 48,000 items, ranging from buttons, medals, and scrimshaw to figureheads, ships’ engines, and small boats.
ACE is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing rewarding environmental service opportunities for young adults and emerging professionals of all backgrounds to explore and improve public lands while gaining practical professional experience. The EPIC NPS Division works alongside the National Park Service across the United States, from Alaska to Puerto Rico, to support the NPS in its mission to “preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations” while providing career promoting individual placement opportunities.
San Francisco Maritime seeks a postdoctoral fellow to conduct research and contribute to interpretation in one or more of three areas of focus: histories related to African American maritime, waterfront, and/or shipyard workers in San Francisco and Marin County; African American experiences on the Pacific Ocean and their relationships to maritime communities along the North American Pacific coast (preferably focused on San Francisco and the SF Bay region); the place of maritime San Francisco in the history of 19th- and 20th-century Black emancipation, liberation, and uplift.
While a candidate with a Ph.D. in history or African American studies is an obvious fit for this position, SAFR welcomes applicants representing any humanities field. The Park is open to creative approaches to interpretive and educational products if the work is grounded in historically accurate research and scholarship. We also welcome, but do not require, interest in working with community groups and/or expertise and interest in digital humanities. Candidates who wish to incorporate SAFR’s museum collections into their work would be welcome to do so.
Each NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow will complete work in four areas. Fellows will (1) perform project-based research; (2) share research results; (3) produce and substantially contribute to interpretive and educational products; and (4) pursue career-focused work.
- Project-Based Research: In Year One, under the guidance of the mentoring team, the Fellow will conduct research in relevant scholarly sources; visit and explore relevant archival and research collections in San Francisco and/or throughout the region; and conduct research that draws on the Fellow’s expertise and interests as well as selected Fellowship themes. This would be the time for Fellows with an interest in community outreach to initiate and begin to build relationships with relevant organizations.
At the end of Year One, the Fellow will consult with their mentorship team, as well as other subject matter experts as needed, to propose a project for their second year.
- Sharing Research Results: The Fellow will produce an annotated bibliography of scholarly and archival sources that they have consulted and, if they identify other scholarly, archival, and community sources for further study, will also write up a list of those resources as well. In consultation with NPS mentors, the Fellow will disseminate their research in other forms, which might include in-person workshops, digital publications, conference participation, academic publications, or other interpretive media.
During the first year, the Fellow will prepare and present an informal “work in progress” talk for SAFR Interpretation, Education, and Cultural Resources staff, volunteers, and interns. This talk would introduce staff to the Fellow’s disciplinary perspective and help us understand how that perspective shapes the Fellow’s research. The talk would also provide insight into the Fellow’s research, research process, and their preliminary findings and insights thus far. Our partners and others from nearby NPS units will be invited to attend. At the end of the first year, the Fellow will prepare and present a more formal, in-person presentation for all SAFR staff as well as those from nearby NPS units. The Fellow may also wish to give virtual, NPS-wide versions of their presentations.
The Fellow will be expected to develop and sustain connections with program-provided mentors and host staff, associated NPS staff, members of their Fellowship cohort, and other Fellows across the tenure of the program. In addition to being provided mentorship and support themselves, the Fellow will have the opportunity to mentor others and to enrich staff knowledge by organizing events such as virtual speaker series and presentations. Twice a year, the Fellow will participate with their cohort and other Fellows in a virtual conference for NPS staff and partners to provide updates about their research. The Fellow will be responsible for tracking and reporting accomplishments and for supplying copies of interpretive, educational, and research products to their host and to the National Coordinator.
- Interpretive and Educational Products: The fellow will work with mentors to plan and develop work that will help SAFR tell new stories that are relevant to the Park, its mission, its local communities, and visitors more broadly. Interpretive and educational projects might include, for example, a script for a guided interpretive tour or museum exhibit, a podcast, articles for NPS.gov, or other web-based digital product. Depending upon the Fellow’s field, interests, and expertise, products might also be more creative. They might include, just for example, a community-based art or photodocumentary project.
- Career-focused Research and Products: In consultation with their mentors, the Fellow will carry out a career-centered project. About 20 percent of the Fellowship will be dedicated to this scholarly work that advances the Fellow’s career path. The Fellow will have opportunities to meet with Park employees across Interpretation and Cultural Resources and to shadow them in their daily duties. There will also be opportunities to meet with regional Cultural Resources and Science staff.
Essential Responsibilities And Tasks
- Work with mentors to establish work plans and goals.
- Conduct background and original scholarly research relevant to this fellowship.
- Engage with Park staff in a reciprocal process of learning and sharing information and approaches to research and interpretive work.
- Develop and create products to share research process and findings with NPS staff and partners.
- Create work products that will educate and engage the public, in person and/or virtually.
- Write a summary of original research and create an organized database containing research notes and other research materials gathered.
Required Experience And Qualifications
- Must hold a PhD in any field of the humanities or humanistic social sciences. Scholars who received or will receive their PhD between May 1, 2019, and August 15, 2024, are eligible to apply. For more information on eligibility, visit the National Park Foundation’s NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow page at https://www.nationalparks.org/nps-mellon-humanities-postdoctoral-fellowship.
- Subject matter expertise in African American history, maritime history, labor history, San Francisco/California/Pacific North American history, American Studies, public history, cultural anthropology, or related areas of specialization. The Park is open to creative approaches to interpretive and educational products as long as the work is grounded in historically accurate research and scholarship.
- Excellent research, writing, and communication skills for multiple audiences.
- Ability to work independently and collaboratively as part of a team.
- Skilled in project planning; able to navigate multiple, concurrent, ongoing tasks as needed.
- Strong organizational skills.
- Able to manage time in order to accomplish tasks and meet deadlines on schedule.
- Selective factors include the merit of scholarship, commitment to the public humanities, and capacity to complete research successfully.