Continuing Conservation: The Beat Goes On!

Teakettle prior to carbonate leaching out

In the previous blogs, I have discussed the varied and lengthy conservation techniques of Storm Wreck pieces.

Typically, these methods start from the moment a site is discovered and an artifact is disturbed. Once the immediate environment and surroundings have changed, an artifact will start going through new corrosion changes. Students and/or LAMP divers have to treat objects very carefully underwater while they are dredging and carrying them up to the surface.

Once on the boat they are documented to show the condition immediately after excavation and numbered. Back on shore, they are then taken to be x-rayed and identified. Next is the long process of removing the concretion and the chlorides from the artifact. This is the phase most people think of when broaching the subject of conservation. It is also what visitors can expect to see when touring the Lighthouse grounds and coming over to the conservation area. The final active conservation step is to rinse and coat the artifact with a sealant so that it is stable and may be exposed to the environment.

However, the conservation process is not done. The artifacts on display in the new Wrecked! exhibit all went through one form or another of the aforementioned steps, but still have more work to be done on them. Even though they have been treated and are in the museum, they require monitoring and care from the conservation and collections staff.

Once an artifact is sealed and ready to go, they need to have final documentation such as measurements, photos and treatment methods written down. These notes, as well as any other relevant information, are added to our database and the State of Florida’s using a program called PastPerfect. Once they are catalogued with the state, the conservation staff hands the artifacts to the Lighthouse Collections department. Collections will then coordinate on what objects stay with the Lighthouse Museum and what are sent to Tallahassee to be added to the state’s assemblage.

CARD

Artifact card
Artifact card

For the artifacts that remain, collections and conservation staff carefully installed them in the Wrecked! exhibit. From here, they need regular check-ups to make sure the conservation worked properly and that no new threats to the objects’ stability have popped up. Continue reading

Constance Fenimore Woolson and “The Ancient City”

Constance Fenimore Woolson, an accomplished American writer, spent winters in St. Augustine with her ailing mother from 1873 to 1879. She wove her experiences into her writing, setting several fictional stories and poems in the streets and waterways of the town. She published one such story, aptly titled “The Ancient City,” in Volumes 50 (December 1874) and 51 (January 1875) of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Her experiences coincided with the recent completion of, what was at that time, the new St. Augustine Lighthouse and Part One gives us a glimpse of the lighthouse and surrounding area.

The Lighthouses of “The Ancient City”

The New Lighthouse - from The Ancient City
The New Lighthouse from “The Ancient City”

In “The Ancient City,” Woolson’s narrator, Martha, tells of her experiences in St. Augustine, including a trip out to Anastasia Island with several companions. Aboard the boat, Martha spots the “new light-house, curiously striped in black and white like a barber’s pole.” There being fewer trees and little construction on the island then, “there was nothing to compare it with, not a hill or rise of land, not even a tall tree, and therefore it looked gigantic, a tower built by Titans rather than men.” Continue reading

Wrecked! Grand Opening

FieldSchoolStudents

WOW!

We were so humbled by the turnout at last night’s Wrecked! Exhibition Grand Opening! Thank you to everyone who joined us, and especially Ancient City Brewing, musician Justin Gurnsey, and Jackie Hird Photography who helped us provide a great night for our guests.

We also christened and launched our 1760s British Yawl boat, built by our incredible volunteers at the Lighthouse Heritage Boatworks.

If you didn’t get a chance to come by, you have plenty of time to visit and see this interactive exhibition for yourself! Bring the whole family, you’re sure to have a blast.

Below are just a few photos from this great night — enjoy!

BoatChristening
More than a hundred guests looked on as Associate Pastor Hunter Camp from Memorial Presbyterian Church christened the “Heart of Oak” yawl boat built by volunteers in our Heritage Boatworks.
BoatLaunch
After the christening, “Heart of Oak” took her inaugural voyage with our Lighthouse staff rowing crew including Dr. Sam Turner, Olivia McDaniel, Scott Smith, Paul Zielinski, and Mason Rogers.
BellasariusCrew
Brian McNamara and the Bellasarius Crew provided our guests with a living history demonstration (complete with a well-timed musket firing!) of Revolutionary War-era life.
Kathy
Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming welcomes our guests to the exhibit opening.
FieldSchoolStudents
We were honored to have many of our underwater archaeology field school students who worked on the shipwreck over the last six years present for the exhibition opening. All of the students who attended are now employed in the archaeology field.
RibbonCutting
Theresa Floyd, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Brenda Swann, Director of Collections and Interpretation, cut the ribbon to officially open Wrecked!
StarWaterses
We were fortunate to have not one, but TWO lovely ladies portray our new exhibit character, Star Waters! Guests enjoyed stepping into the photo booth with both Stars throughout the night.
Justin
Live music for the evening was provided by local musician Justin Gurnsey.

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?