Coating a Cannon for Conservation

The cannon must be dry before applying the Owatrol oil.

The Keeper’s House at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is currently undergoing a big change. This spring will see the opening of a new, large exhibit focusing on the underwater archaeology conducted by the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program staff. The new exhibit, called Wrecked!, will explain the process of finding, excavating, researching and conserving the 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck (known sometimes at the Storm Wreck) as well as displaying the numerous artifacts from the site.

The largest finds from Storm are the two cannons, which visitors may have seen outside the house for the previous four years. The 4-pound long gun and the 9-pound carronade have finished the electrolysis stage of the conservation process and are now going through the final and penultimate steps, respectively.

The cannon and carronade undergoing electrolysis.
The cannon and carronade undergoing electrolysis.

However, before we could do anything further with the Storm guns, we had to make room for them. This coincides with the new exhibit and meant that the Lighthouse would need to move out the old Industry wreck exhibit in the basement. While most of the artifacts were easily packed up and taken care of by our Collections staff, there was one object that was a little more than the Lighthouse was comfortable handling. Continue reading

Making of an Exhibit: Moving Ain’t Easy

What does it take to build a brand new museum exhibit? Over the next few months, we’re going to give you exclusive access behind the scenes as our team works together to createWrecked! a new experience coming to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in May 2016.

» Read our first entry “Boxes & Beginnings”

Fact: Cannons are really heavy

Imagine this scenario: You have a delicate, 18th century cannon that ways a ton (literally, it weighs about 2,000 lbs.) located in the basement of an equally delicate 19th century historic building and you need to move it.

Oh, but that’s just the first cannon.

Yeah, that’s right, there’s TWO of them. The second one isn’t as heavy as the first (only around 1,000 lbs.) but it’s got to go into the basement in place of the larger cannon.

On top is the Industry cannon from 1764  and below it is the Wrecked! cannon from 1782
On top is the Industry cannon from 1764 and below it is the Wrecked! cannon from 1782

Who you gonna call?

(No, it’s not who you think — but we do have those guys on speed dial for other reasons…)

Our staff has moved a few cannons on occasion, but for this big step in preparing for our new exhibit, we knew right away that this task would require some additional help.

Thankfully, the fantastic team at Nieman & Co. Rigging and Crane Services, Inc. was up to the task. These guys are experts in moving big objects — they’ve transported everything from ancient sculptures to nuclear submarine simulators.

With our grant support from the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources and the State of Florida, we hired the team at Nieman to come in and help us relocate two of the biggest pieces in our Museum collection to their new homes, respectively.

Wait, why did we have to move cannons in the first place?

Continue reading

Lighthouse Technology: Illumination

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This next installment in our series on lighthouse technology focuses on the illuminants lighthouses have used, especially those used at the St. Augustine Lighthouse in it history.

Click the link below to read previous post in the series:

Lighthouse Illumination
This US Lighthouse Establishment 100 gallon oil butt sits in the oil room of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.
This US Lighthouse Establishment 100 gallon oil butt sits in the oil room of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Historically, lighthouses have served as a reflection of a culture’s technological sophistication. Because of their navigational importance, lighthouses drove and benefited from advancements in lighting technology. From the first fires set atop high hills to today’s automated beacons, lighthouses have changed and adapted to keep their lights shining as brightly and efficiently as possible.

Early lighthouses burned wood, coal, or candles to provide illumination. By the early 1800s, most U.S. lighthouses used whale oil as fuel in their oil lanterns. Whale oil is rendered from whale blubber and was a common fuel for lanterns of all sizes in the early 19th century, lighthouses included. The New England whaling industry supplied all the whale oil the country’s lighthouses needed through the mid-19th century. The availability and excellent qualities of whale oil made it an ideal fuel for lighthouses that had to stay lit through the night. Continue reading

SHA 2016 is a Success! – Storm Wreck Symposium Presented in the Nation’s Capital

Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program staff and students presented a Storm Wreck Symposium at the annual SHA conference in Washington, D.C. this January. Shown here are nineteen of the twenty-eight archaeologists associated with the program in attendance at the conference.
This letter, concerning the Storm Wreck vessel's wrecking event, was written exactly 233 years before lighthouse archaeologist presented research on this wreck at the 49th annual SHA conference in Washington, D.C.
This letter, concerning the Storm Wreck vessel’s wrecking event, was written exactly 233 years before lighthouse archaeologists presented research on this wreck at the 49th annual SHA conference in Washington, D.C.

On January 9, 1783, the commander of the British Royal Army in East Florida, Lieutenant Colonel Archibald McArthur, wrote a letter to the British Commander in Chief, Sir Guy Carleton, to inform him of the loss of the Rattlesnake, two victualing ships, and six private vessels upon the bar at St. Augustine.

Exactly 233 years later, archaeologists, students, and colleagues of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s research arm, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), presented the culmination of six years’ worth of research on the Storm Wreck, which archaeologists believe is one of the ships in the convoy Lieutenant McArthur refers to in his letter.

The fifteen papers presented featured many aspects of Storm Wreck research, from various artifact classes, to public outreach programs and the development of the Storm Wreck exhibit, to the microscopic clues found in the sediment surrounding the site. (Read our paper abstracts below!)

The historic Omni Shoreham Hotel, where this year's annual SHA conference was held. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omni_Shoreham_Hotel#cite_note-4
The historic Omni Shoreham Hotel, where this year’s annual SHA conference was held.

This daylong symposium was part of the 49th Annual Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology, hosted by the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA). This year, archaeologists from around the world convened in our nation’s capital for the annual conference – an appropriate place as we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, both of which played a significant role in the growth and development of the field of historical and underwater archaeology. The conference was held at the historic Omni Shoreham Hotel, which, for those history buffs out there, housed Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon and served as the base of operations for the Philippine government during World War II, and hosted every inaugural ball for 20th century American presidents beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Continue reading

Dr. Sam Turner Awarded Grant to Study Historic St. Augustine Artillery

A contemporary late 16th century illustration showing a cast bronze cannon on a field carriage which are documented in the list of ancillary artillery equipment in Spanish documents.

Last year, Dr. Sam Turner, Director of Heritage Boatworks and an Historian and Maritime Archaeologist at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, was invited to become a Research Associate of the Historic St. Augustine Research Institute (HSARI). The Institute is a collaborative project of Flagler College and the University of Florida, supported by the St. Augustine Foundation, Inc. The Institute funds research projects that focus primarily on scholarly research into St. Augustine’s historic heritage, and are committed to making the results of that research available both to historic preservation efforts in the City, and to the interested public.

Turner applied for 2016 grant funds from the Institute for a research project titled “St. Augustine’s Bronze and Cast Iron Artillery and Equipment 1597-1601” for which he was awarded $10,000.00. This research is based primarily on a collection of Spanish documents Turner found in the Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain, during a State grant funded trip in 2008.

An example of one of the scribal hands found in the artillery inventory in the Spanish documents.
An example of one of the scribal hands found in the artillery inventory in the Spanish documents.

These documents contain a great deal of information on the material culture of St. Augustine between 1597 and 1601, the time covered by the documents. This included information that was used in the recreation of a late 16th century water craft known as a chalupa named the San Agustín, built here in a partnership between the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, the St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation, and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park for the 450th commemoration. Continue reading