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Cape Connection

Internship helps student study her Cape Verdean roots

For Carolyn King, ’23, an internship with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute was about much more than learning new skills. It also offered the opportunity to study her Cape Verdean roots.

Carolyn developed a museum exhibit comparing maritime topics in Cape Verde, a 10-island archipelago off the African coast, and Cape Cod. 

“I can’t overstate how grateful I am that I was picked to do this project,” said the Bridgewater State University psychology major from Wareham. “This internship has been a blessing. It’s opened many doors for me.”

Carolyn, whose mother was born in Cape Verde, used print sources and interviews to build content and videos for the digital exhibit. Her work will be displayed at the Cape Cod Cape Verdean Museum & Cultural Center and shared more broadly by Woods Hole. She also helped design a digital map of Cape Verde that will be printed as a giant floor mat on which people can walk, providing visitors with an immersive experience.

Carolyn tackled the project with guidance from BSU mentors Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan, a geography professor, and Angelo Barbosa, director of the Pedro Pires Institute for Cape Verdean Studies.

“I see this as a part of the connections the institute is trying to build with Cape Verdean institutions in the area,” Barbosa said. “We’re creating real opportunities for the community to continue to discuss and understand the trajectories of Cape Verdeans.”

Massachusetts’ ties to Cape Verde date to the late 1700s, when whaling vessels from New Bedford visited the islands for supplies. Recognized for their maritime skills, Cape Verdeans soon began immigrating to the U.S. Today, Southeastern Massachusetts hosts one of the largest concentrations of Cape Verdeans living abroad.

Carolyn’s exhibit explores historical roots and contemporary issues such as fishing, water quality, and coastal resilience in the face of changing climate. These are topics that Woods Hole researchers study, creating a natural connection between the exhibit and the institute.

“From the first time I met with Carolyn, I was taken aback by her ambition and can-do attitude,” said Dr. Matt Charette, who directs the Woods Hole Sea Grant program through which Carolyn interned.  “For an undergraduate student, she is mature beyond where most of her peers are at.”

Carolyn, whose internship led to work on a second exhibit for the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, has a passion for museums and learning about different cultures.

Ultimately, she is driven to tell the story of her family heritage.

“We played such a big role in this region but have not been recognized as much as we should,” Carolyn said of Cape Verdeans. “It’s really cool to teach others about this culture.”

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