Organized by the National Maritime Alliance, the National Maritime Heritage Conference is the triennial gathering (this year’s event takes place one year later than the three-year interval due to logistical delays) of anyone with an interest in the sea and man’s history and relationship with it. There is no other conference like it; participants include both individuals and institutions: museums, historic and replica vessel support organizations, government agencies and educational programs. Sponsors of the conference, contributing support in myriad ways, including financial, organizational, or panel-content support, have included organizations such as the Council of American Maritime Museums, the North American Society for Oceanic History, the Historic Naval Ships Association, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and the National Maritime Historical Society.
Past venues for the conference include the Maritime Museum of San Diego; Nauticus in Norfolk, VA; Historic Ships in Baltimore, MD; and the battleship USS North Carolina, moored in Wilmington, NC.
In recent years, the National Maritime Heritage Conference has drawn between 300 and 500 attendees. Offerings have included panels running the gamut from marine archaeology, naval history, historic ship preservation and replica ship building, to issues in museum management and research opportunities. Past keynote speakers include author Ian W. Toll, Prof. Alex Roland, maritime author and historian Nathaniel Philbrick, underwater archaeologist and museum director James Delgado; American Pilots Association President Captain Michael Watson, National Maritime Historical Society President Emeritus Peter Stanford; and underwater archaeologist Robert Neyland. In addition, the conference has served as a platform from which to launch significant new undertakings; in 2010, Admiral John C. Harvey Jr., (USN), announced the formation of the Navy Commemorations Commission to celebrate the bicentennial of the Star Spangled Banner and the War of 1812 as part of a plan to educate Americans on the US Navy’s mission and to stress the importance of learning and understanding our nation’s history.
The conference returns this year to Norfolk, hosted by Nauticus. We hope to see you there: to make new connections, to learn, to share, and to build foundations for future progress in the maritime world.