Steamer NIAGARA: Her Demise, Her Artifacts, and Her Significance

UWM student in front of poster presentation

The 2024 Research in the Rotunda featured 16 Freshwater Collaborative-funded research projects. Students shared more about their experience.

Student: Nick Quaney
University: UW-Milwaukee
Major: History with a minor in English and a certificate in Celtic Studies
Expected graduation date: May 2025
Mentor: Kevin Cullen, Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Summarize the research and your role.

My research was at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, going through their shipwreck artifact collection, specifically artifacts from the steamer NIAGARA, and researching maker’s marks. I was the only student researcher, working under the collections manager and curator.

What skills did you learn? 

I learned quite a bit about the many databases on maker’s marks, specifically British manufacture during the mid-19th century, the requirements, and procedures on how to handle artifacts, as well as the practical and less-flashy information on how museums operate, the structure of personnel and operations, and the making of museum exhibits.

What has been your favorite part about this experience?

Connecting with the museum staff and their partners at NOAA was one of my favorite parts, and the unique experience of looking at actual shipwreck artifacts.

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had because of this research?

I have had the opportunity to present my research at multiple symposia, in addition to the many connections I’ve made with academic advisors, curators, and NOAA federal employees.

What kind of career do you hope to go into after graduation? 

I hope to go to graduate school for a PhD in history, with a focus on military history, and to eventually teach at a university.

How will this experience help you attain your career goals?

I have made so many connections through my research, and the people I have met are more than willing to help me achieve my goals. The skills I gained have added to not just the way I look at my own field, but also the practical application of my studies, both of which are invaluable.