Last week I dispelled the myth that Williams students live on a boat by displaying pictures of the houses they live in. This week I am going to dispel the myth that Mystic students just have fun all the time and never work.


Mystic Seaport, the museum “campus” that Williams-Mystic uses, has a library that is essentially one big rare books library, in the sense that every book in it is rare. Thus, it is an invaluable resource, and people come from all over the world to use it.

This picture shows a Williams-Mystic student doing research with a rare book in the library. Each student does a history research paper using the primary source documents in the library, and that is what is happening here.

For example, my paper was about “sea mail” in the 1800s, which was the way that wives on shore wrote to their husbands at sea and vice-versa. I wanted to see how the fact that the system was so unreliable (many letters never arrived) and took so long (often six months to a year) affected what people wrote in their letters. So my research consisted of wearing white gloves to carefully read the fragile letters, written in brown ink with a fountain pen and often illegible nineteenth-century handwriting. It was awesome. I read love letters for research purposes. What could be better than that?

David is all about advocating for student papers to be available online, so I wouldn’t dream of telling you that Williams-Mystic is academically rigorous without providing proof. In each of four classes (in addition to a final exam) we had to write a final paper, three of which were original research papers. My final papers appear below. I hope you enjoy them. I am putting them in order of how interesting they will probably be to you: Oceanography first because it has entertaining pictures and diagrams, history second because it has lots of fascinating primary source quotes, and policy last because it has 74 footnotes.

Oceanography: Analysis and models of a micromarsh at Mystic Seaport

History: A study of whether the fact that sea mail was unreliable and slow in the eighteenth century led letter-writers to write differently

English: A defense of Captain MacWhirr, the main character in Typhoon by Joseph Conrad

Policy: An analysis of aquaculture on Deer Isle, Maine (where I live)

By the way, these papers received, not in this order, B, B+, A-, and A (so now you know the standards are not just “everybody gets an A”).

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