Skip to main content

Martin, Jay

Museum Director



Jay Martin is a 40+ year veteran of historical endeavors and a specialist in maritime history with a focus on the impact that the Great Lakes of Canada and the United States have had on global maritime history. He is a former merchant mariner and has served as the chief administrator for several museums, including the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum (Madisonville, Louisiana), the American Victory Mariners Memorial and Museum Ship (Tampa, Florida), and the Wisconsin Maritime Museum (Manitowoc, Wisconsin).  He has taught American, Maritime, Military, and Public History at various institutions, most recently at Southeastern Louisiana University. In 2010 he joined the faculty at Central Michigan University in a joint appointment as director and curator of the CMU Museum of Cultural and Natural History/Gerald Poor School House Museum and director of the Museum Studies Program.

Dr. Martin's career has included a focus on maritime history and underwater archaeology. He was a project-long member of the scow schooner Rockaway excavation team, and therefore a participant in the first full scale underwater archaeological excavation of a shipwreck on the American side of the Great Lakes. Much of what is known about the Rockaway, shipboard life, and certain aspects of maritime material culture comes from his groundbreaking research.  He has since worked on a variety of shipwreck, lighthouse, and port sites, in the Great Lakes and on the Gulf Coast.

His specialty in historic preservation and cultural resource management has included the research, restoration, and interpretation of multiple historic ships, overland vehicles, and structures.  Much of his current work is devoted to documenting historical diversity at Central Michigan University, in Mid-Michigan, and throughout the Great Lakes region.

More about Jay Martin

Dr. Martin has an international reputation as a scholar with over one hundred publications and creative endeavors.  A select number of recent works are highlighted below:

Swift Passage: Pioneering Direct Trade Between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic and Pacific Worlds (in preparation).

Proceedings of the Underwater Cultural Resources Public Access and Research Conference, Coastal Zone Management Program (MCNH 2021-1, February 2020).

The Old Settlers of Mecosta, Isabella, and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: Potential Historic Sites to Commemorate a Pioneer African American Community. (MCNH Report 2019-1: December 2019).

“Kozmic Clash: Peace, Love and Outer Space,” Exhibit Lead Curator, CMU Museum, opened April 22, 2019.

"A Century of Science and Service: The Midland Section of the American Chemical Society," Exhibit Co-Curator and Director of oral history and web site production, American Chemical Society Midland Chapter, Doan Midland County History Center, VIP opening May 10, 2019.

"Scows, and Barges, or Other Vessels of Box Model": Comparative Capital Investment in and the Sailing Scows on the Great Lakes of North America and in New Zealand," International Journal of Maritime History 30 (February 2018).

Phase 1 Archaeological Investigation of the Brig James McBride, The First American-Flag Great Lakes Commercial Vessel to Pioneer Direct Trade with the Atlantic World.  (MCNH Report 2017-1, November 2017).

General Henry Baxter, 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry: A Biography (McFarland, 2016). [ISBN-13: 978-1476663395; ISBN-10: 1476663394]

"Only the Shipyards will Gain: The Buffalo Hurricane of 1921 as a Demonstration of the "Combined Economic Power of American Commercial Carriers on the Great Lakes," Northern Mariner 15 (April 2015): 133-162.

"The Advocate's Devil: The Maritime Public Historian as Expert Witness," The Public Historian 37 (February 2015): 25-38.

The Blanchard DeWitt Mill Project: Recommendations for Community Policy, Historic Interpretation, Economic Development, and Sustainable Reuse. (MCNH Report 2015-1, January 2015).

"A Unique and Significant Heritage: A Phase I Cultural Resources Historical Survey of Wawatam Township, Emmet County, Michigan" Submitted to the Emmet County Commissioners, September 10, 2013.

"Strands that Stand: Using Wire Rope to Date Archaeological Sites." International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 43 (Spring 2014): 151-161.

Bachelor's Degree in Public History from Western Michigan University, 1984
Master's Degree in American Studies from Bowling Green State University, 1988
Ph.D. in History from Bowling Green State University, 1995

With training and experience in underwater archaeology, American Studies, and many fields of Public History, Dr. Martin has worked professionally as a curator, archivist, park ranger, director, expert witness, oral historian, folklorist, and consultant. He is a former merchant mariner and specialist in maritime history, with interest in the transmission of maritime technology and the influence of the maritime world upon the terrestrial. Dr. Martin specializes in developing unique collaborative ventures for sustainable management and interpretation. His geographic focus is on the Great Lakes Region and its impact upon world events.‚Äč

His interest in preserving finite underwater cultural resources led him to lobby for the federal Abandoned Shipwreck Act and its implementation nationwide. He was a gubernatorial appointee to the Ohio Submerged Lands Advisory Board, which oversaw implementation of the Ohio Shipwreck Act, legislation that he drafted, supported through legislative approval, and implementation. He was later an at-large member of the Wisconsin Submerged Cultural Resource Board and a key contributor to the founding of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the first federal marine sanctuary on the Great Lakes. He has provided litigation support and expert witnessing, most notably in the steamer Atlantic case in Ontario. He has held many leadership positions in professional organizations and has earned multiple awards for his efforts.

Courses Taught

As Professor of History he brings to his classes theory and method in the cultural heritage sector using archaeology, oral history, digital history, museum and archival administration. He uses his practical experience as a historian, curator, collections manager, educator, archivist, maritime archaeologist, park ranger, expert witness, fundraiser, and chief operating officer to bring the world of Public History alive for CMU students. He teaches American History, Military History, Public History, Museum Studies, and Cultural Resource Management, as well as Honors classes in Maritime and Central Michigan University History.