2015 Kortum Award

Karl Kortum Award for Maritime History

Submission of Research

Guidelines and Information


The subject must be in one or more of the following areas:

  1. Commercial sailing vessels which sailed to, from or along the West Coast, including full-rigged ships, barks, barkentines, brigantines and two-, three-, four-, five- and six-masted schooners;
  2. Commercial steamships which sailed to, from or along the West Coast, including steam-schooners, passenger liners, steam whalers, and deep sea tugs;
  3. Commercial vessels of San Francisco Bay, including scow schooners, ferryboats, harbor tugs and fishing boats;
  4. Shipbuilding on the West Coast, including wooden, iron and steel construction, marine steam engine works, and ship repair facilities;
  5. Practical seamanship, shiphandling and sailorizing in commercial vessels sailing to, from or along the West Coast;
  6. The business of operating ships on the West Coast, including the lives of shipowners, the rise and fall of commercial fleets, and the changing economy in commercial cargoes;
  7. Naval vessels and operations related to San FranciscoBay;
  8. Waterfronts and shoreside activities in ports of call on voyages to, from or along the West Coast;
  9. The lives of sailors and ship officers who sailed to, from or along the West Coast, including their ethnography, culture and sociology;
  10. The working conditions of the sailors and ship officers who sailed to, from or along the West Coast, including the conditions aboard ship, in port, between voyages, and union activities.
  11. The subject must be maritime history as provided above rather than one of its modern supportive disciplines, e.g., historic ship preservation, nautical archeology, museology, etc.

If you have questions regarding the acceptability of your subject, please feel free to inquire of the Chairman, below.

Form of Research

  1. Research submitted by applicants for the Award must be original research, and unpublished at time of submission. Publication for purposes of this Award is defined as reproduction by any means of a number of copies greater than 99; posting on a bulletin board or a website constitutes publication.
  2. Research is defined as primary research (oral history, archival documents, etc.) or secondary research (a synthesis and analysis of primary and/or secondary materials). Research may be in the form of a composition, compilation, anthology, card file, list or other expression of research.


To be eligible, research shall originate in, use or contribute to the Oral Histories held in the Library, Historical Documents Department or other repository of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park ("Library").

  1. The element "use" (above) may be interpreted to mean as little as a single sentence or idea in an oral history. Note, however, that the Kortum Endowment Committee takes seriously that purpose of the Endowment which is to encourage use of the oral histories, and therefore the Committee may weight more heavily the research that makes a greater use of the oral histories.
  2. For purposes of this Award, the term "Oral Histories" shall include interviews preserved in various forms, including on paper, computer, audio or video tape, compact disc, or on other media—some of which, but not all, include the recorded voice.; see the description in #3 below of Karl’s oral histories taken down on paper.
  3. In the cover letter accompanying submission, the Applicant shall briefly describe the connection of his research to the Library's oral histories, including the name(s) and catalog number(s) of related oral histories and the location in his research of the connection to the oral histories.

Oral History Collections

The Oral History Collections consist of the following:

  • 591 interviews on tape;
  • 210 interviews by Jerry McNairn, which have transcripts or summaries but no tapes;
  • Oral histories taken down by Karl on paper and edited on the spot with the interviewee; this group consists of an unknown number, has not been processed and is not available for research at this time;
  • 3 interviews on video or film.

Collection Access

  1. Searchable access at the time of this writing is limited to names of Interviewees in oral histories on tape, as well as limited access to vessel and other names.
    • Two lists of interviews on tape (552 interviews on various subjects, 46 interviews on APL), in order by interviewee, will be provided at no cost, upon request to Reference Librarian Gina Bardi (415-561-7033, gina_bardi@nps.gov)
    • Browsable access includes copies of notes and summaries and unedited transcripts of a limited number of interviews; a limited number of notes and summaries are searchable by computer.
  2. Physical Access:
    • Except for a limited number of interviews, researchers may listen to a broad selection of user copies.
    • At this time, preferred access is by visiting the Library by arrangement with Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian: (415) 561-7033, gina_bardi@nps.gov.
    • When distance is a problem, limited special arrangements with the Chair are possible.
  3. The Kortum method:
    • When I described the obstacles to use of the oral histories, Karl responded, "Well, the researcher will have to find a way around those obstacles."
    • Karl's appreciation of resourcefulness is reflected in another area of the Endowment, the requirements for candidates for filling vacancies on the Kortum Endowment Committee: "The imagination, creativity and experience of the prospect shall be important considerations in all appointments."
    • The one element in the Kortum Endowment which Karl insisted upon was connection to the oral histories held at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

As stated, at this time we cannot provide full searchable access. One of the purposes of this Endowment is to increase interest in the oral history collection. With increased interest we expect to engage the resources necessary to increase access.

Access is sufficient at this time--albeit limited and difficult--for research meeting the oral history requirement to be prepared and the Award to be given.

Copyright Issues

  1. Authors retain their copyright and shall receive appropriate credit for their work.
  2. Oral History Copyright: Copyright releases from Interviewers and Interviewees have been acquired for only a small percentage of the oral histories; however, good-faith efforts have been made in virtually all cases. Provided that the Library holds either a release or evidence of a good-faith effort, the Library will release the oral history for your use upon receipt of your signature on a form indicating that you take responsibility for any copyright infringement.

Submission Requirements

  1. The submission must be in six paper copies or by pdf attachment to email, except as below.
  2. The Applicant must offer in the cover letter (see Eligibility, 3, above) and include two paper copies for deposit in the Library of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (which may be included among the six copies mentioned above.)
  3. Submission deadline is September 12, 2015

Steve Hyman, Chairman

Endowment Committee

(415) 561-7040


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