Wrecked! Uncover the Secrets Behind Artifact Conservation

From now until our Wrecked! Exhibition Grand Opening on May 5th, we will be sharing weekly videos with insights on the new exhibit every Tuesday on Periscope, followed by a re-cap blog post and video every Wednesday. Follow along as we unveil this exciting new exhibit at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum!

How do you restore an artifact that’s been on the ocean floor for over 200 years?

From the moment we began excavating the 1782 British loyalist shipwreck off St. Augustine’s coast in 2010, our team of archaeological conservators faced the monumental task of cleaning up all of the recovered artifacts.

Over the six field seasons spent diving on this wreck, now the subject of our new Wrecked! exhibition, more than 600 artifacts were recovered. Each one requires careful attention, from removing the outer crust to removing all of the salt soaked into the artifacts, this critical and tedious process means the difference between saving history and destroying it.

In this week’s video, take an inside look at Wrecked! with two of our conservators — Director of Archaeological Conservation Starr Cox and Assistant Archaeological Conservator Andrew Thomson — as they share what some of the exhibit artifacts looked like before conservation and some insights into the process of saving these one-of-a-kind pieces.

Video Highlights:

  • 0:31 – See what a concreted artifact looks like when it’s first recovered.
  • 1:25 – How are different types of materials treated in conservation?
  • 2:39 – What did the cannon look like when it was first recovered?
  • 3:25 – How do you conserve a shipwreck cannon?
  • 5:35 – What special item was found inside a cauldron that gave us insight into life on board the ship?
  • 6:14 – What clue was part of the concretion surrounding the ship’s bell?
  • 7:28 – What did each of our conservators enjoy the most about working on this exhibit?

Wrecked! Go Behind-the-Scenes with Lighthouse Archaeologists

From now until our Wrecked! Exhibition Grand Opening on May 5th, we will be sharing weekly videos with insights on the new exhibit every Tuesday on Periscope, followed by a re-cap blog post and video every Wednesday. Follow along as we unveil this exciting new exhibit at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum!

Do you know how archaeologists find shipwrecks?

This and many other questions about the science behind underwater archaeology are answered in our new shipwreck exhibit, Wrecked!.

In this week’s sneak peek video, go behind-the-scenes in the new exhibit with Chuck Meide, Director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), and Olivia McDaniel, Lighthouse Archaeologist.

Video Highlights:

  • 0:58 – When was this shipwreck found?
  • 2:21 – How do archaeologists document shipwrecks?
  • 3:43 – Special “Hello” from an underwater diver!
  • 4:44 – See hanks, iron spikes and bits of sail cloth recovered from this shipwreck.
  • 5:14 – Did you know sailors marked their spoons?
  • 5:50 – How did uniform buttons help solve the puzzle behind this shipwreck?
  • 6:53 - What amazing thing was found inside a cauldron on the shipwreck?
  • 8:08 – Why are there ax marks in the ship’s deck pump?
  • 10:16 – What was it like when this ship ran aground?
  • 11:38 – How many cannons were found on this shipwreck?
  • 13:05 - What was it like when archaeologists recovered the cannon?
  • 13:32 – What clue were archaeologists hoping to find on the ship’s bell?

Wrecked! Preview Video With Exhibit Curators

From now until our Wrecked! Exhibition Grand Opening on May 5th, we will be sharing weekly videos with insights on the new exhibit every Tuesday on Periscope, followed by a re-cap blog post and video every Wednesday. Follow along as we unveil this exciting new exhibit at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum!

This past weekend, something REALLY big happened.

We opened the doors to our newest exhibition, Wrecked!, to share it with the public for the FIRST time.

This “soft opening” is a little scary for us, after six years of excavation and four years of exhibit planning, we are exposing our new Museum baby to the world for the first time.

So far, the reviews have been fantastic! People are really enjoying the artifacts, the interactive games, the insights from Star Waters, and the overall feel of the exhibit.

We know YOU can’t wait to see it too, so we thought we would bring you a little sneak peek with the staff curators of our new exhibit, Division Director of Collections & Interpretation Brenda Swann and Director of Interpretation Paul Zielinski.

Check out the video below (which originally aired in full on Periscope — go follow us there for more videos leading up to the big exhibit launch!) and get your first look inside the completed exhibit.

Video Highlights:

  • 1:35 – Star Waters Interactive Video Game
  • 3:22 – X-Ray Station and Magnetometer Survey Experience
  • 3:50 – Introduction to the Sand Bar
  • 5:20 – Cistern Art Installation
  • 5:48 – Gold Coin Recovered from Shipwreck
  • 6:20 – Shipwreck Cannon and Lead Deck Pump Artifacts
  • 7:11 – Ship’s Bell Artifact
  • 7:54 – Meet Star Waters!
  • 9:16 – Find Out More About Wrecked!

Introducing Star Waters!

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Over the next month as we approach the grand opening of our new exhibition, Wrecked!, we will be featuring blog and social media posts from our newest Museum team member, Ms. Star Waters! Star has an integral role in the new exhibition which she will be sharing here and in her total takeover of our social media accounts on May 4th!

Hey guys!

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Gotta love those #BeachSelfies!

Wow, is this totally exciting or what? I am so stoked to be part of this new exhibit at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. I mean, have you seen this place? It’s awesome! There’s so much cool history to see here — and not just see, but really experience.

So, speaking of experience, you probably want to know what mine is right?

Well, I’ve been interested in archaeology since I was a little kid. It kinda started when I was with my grandpa walking on a river bank and we found this arrowhead that was half-buried in the ground. We took it down to our local museum and an archaeologist there told us more about Native Americans who made arrowheads like that for weapons and what their life was like.

It was SO COOL to find out how much information you can learn about people just from examining their old stuff.

Did you know there are different kinds of archaeology?

Really, there’s like a million different specialties within archaeology. Like some scientists just focus on agricultural stuff — the origins of plants and how they affect eating habits of different cultures — and some research specific time periods in history.

But the two main categories of archaeology are terrestrial and maritime. Terrestrial archaeology looks at historic sites on land while maritime archaeology focuses on historic sites that are underwater.

Both kinds involve a ton of patience and research, but nautical archaeology comes with lots of other complications because you have to do all the same careful excavation that terrestrial archaeologists do, but you have to do it all under water!

Have you met my friends at the Lighthouse?

As soon as I found out about the nautical archaeology program at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, I HAD to come check it out. After I got my junior dive certification they even let me go out on their research vessel, R/V Roper, and dive with them on this old shipwreck!

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Check me out on board the R/V Roper getting ready to dive on a shipwreck!

Man, I can’t tell you how amazing it is. Continue reading

Artifacts Going Overboard

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During the 2011 field season, a large artifact was uncovered just north of the various cannons found on a 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck in St. Augustine. While originally unsure of what the object was, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) dive team was certain of a few things; it was big, heavy and made of lead. It was also unique to the other artifacts on the site and the decision was made to excavate and bring it to the Lighthouse.

The lead artifact featured a large, cylindrical, funnel-like body roughly one foot in diameter at its widest, tapering to a pipe nearly two inches in diameter. It was found bent and twisted in on itself, but if stretched out to its original form, the remaining length would have measured almost 10 feet long. Overall, the lead weighs nearly 300 pounds.

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Lead deck pump during its initial phase of conservation.

The form of the artifact first led the Lighthouse archaeologists to believe it was the ship’s pissdale or head; essentially a urinal or early form of toilet for the crew. After additional research and comparison, the team concluded it was a deck pump. Rather than removing waste from the ship, it was used to pump water from the ocean up to the deck in order to clean the vessel or fill casks and barrels. Continue reading