National Council on Public History Conference – 2015

From April 15-18, I had the opportunity to attend the National Council on Public History 2015 Conference in Nashville, Tenn., as a session panelist and representative of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum.

Look! That man is doing public history! (OK, its me.)

When I tell people I have a degree in public history and in fact consider myself a public historian, I inevitably get in response, “What is public history?

The definition I often give is simple; public history is the doing and sharing of history outside the traditional classroom. It is what I do as the Director of Interpretation here at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum through my work designing exhibits, giving programs, and leading school tours. Continue reading

Lighthouse Conservator Consults on Preservation of 9th Century Vessel in Thailand

In 2013, in the Samut Sakhon province in Thailand, a centuries old vessel was discovered in one of the many shrimp growing ponds in the area.

Through an initial excavation, archaeologists identified the vessel as an Arab style sewn boat, dating to the 9th century A.D. After a time, they realized certain components of the vessel and associated artifacts were deteriorating, which brought most of the excavation to a halt while authorities considered the best way to proceed.

The answer to this problem came in the form of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Workshop on Underwater Cultural Site Recording and Finds Conservation, which took place in Samudsakorn, Thailand, between March 13-25, 2015.

The remains of the 9th century Arab style, sewn vessel  found in the Samut Sakhon province in Thailand. Lighthouse conservator Starr Cox was called in to consult on the preservation and conservation of the vessel this past March.
The remains of the 9th century Arab style, sewn vessel found in the Samut Sakhon province in Thailand. Lighthouse conservator Starr Cox was called in to consult on the preservation and conservation of the vessel this past March.

Continue reading

Ship Builder’s Legacy Lives On Through Lighthouse Volunteers

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Volunteers at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum completed a ship model of the HMS Victory that was started by Jim McNally and donated to the museum by his wife, Katie, after his passing. 

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. – It all began in 2012, with a generous donation and a public plea in The St. Augustine Record. What happened next tied together the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, a group of passionate volunteers and the legacy of craftsman James G. “Jim” McNally.

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Ship model volunteer Sue Callahm works on the HMS Victory

On Thursday, April 16th, the story will write its final chapter as McNally’s last project is unveiled at a private reception in the Museum courtyard.

“It is truly an honor for the Lighthouse to be part of this project,” said Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming. “As a maritime museum, we utilize these beautiful ship models to give our visitors an up-close look at the historic vessels of our ancestors. But there is so much behind each model, and in this case the story goes beyond just that of the HMS Victory to include Jim’s passion for ships as well as the dedication of our volunteers.” Continue reading

First Chalupa Sea Trials Completed

IMG_4691The chalupa in her slings after launch at the Camachee Cove Marina March 11, 2015

The chalupa replica project hit a major mile stone this past Saturday, March 28, when it rowed out of Hospital Creek for the first time into Matanzas Bay. The craft was blessed and christened the San Agustín six days earlier on March 22nd at her home port located at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. This grass roots collaborative community project is being carried out by the St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation in partnership with the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum contributed the research that has made the project possible. In 2007 the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum received a special category grant from the Division of Historical Resources of the Florida Department of State. The grant funded archaeological and historical research that focused on St. Augustine’s maritime past as well as the purchase of diving and remote sensing equipment that allowed the LAMP program to develop into what it has become today. One of the line items in that grant was a research trip to the Archives of the Indies in Seville Spain. That trip in 2008 proved critical to what would become the St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation’s chalupa replica project. Continue reading

Lighthouse Launches Crowd Funding Campaign for Tower Preservation

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is using crowd funding site to raise $50,000 needed for critical preservation work on the historic 1874 tower.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. –St. Augustine’s most iconic landmark, the 165 foot-tall lighthouse tower, will begin a massive restoration project to save the 1874 structure on April 6th. The nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is undertaking a head-to-toe restoration project to repair damage to the brick and metal structure. To help fund the endeavor, the nonprofit museum will be launching an indiegogo campaign ( on April 2nd with a goal to raise $50,000.

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Rust, as depicted here outside the watchroom, is a serious threat to the 1874 iron lantern atop the tower. Left untreated, it could destroy the tower.

This is really critical work that needs to be done to preserve the lighthouse and its legacy for future generations,” said Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming. “The metal repair work and new paint will help protect the brick, iron and copper surfaces of the tower from the salt air and hot sun. Preservation is not something that happens just once. Maintaining a historic structure like the lighthouse requires continuous work. We want to build upon the initial restoration of the Junior Service League and keep the tower standing strong and looking beautiful for years to come.”

Crews will begin the preservation project on Monday, April 6th, by sandblasting the iron and copper lantern on top of the tower to remove paint and rust blooms. After performing repairs to the metal, the lantern will receive a fresh coat of red paint.

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Humid conditions are favorable for mold growth on the brick masonry of the tower, which can cause significant damage to the lighthouse in the long run.

Following the lantern work, the project will focus on mold abatement for the masonry work before the black and white stripes are repainted. The new paint will not only improve the tower’s appearance, but protect the surfaces from wear and tear.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $280,000. With support from local and state representatives, the museum has secured $200,000 in state grants and appropriations. This includes Historic Preservation Grant assistance provided by the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State, assisted by the Florida Historical Commission.

In order to complete the project, however, the museum is looking to the St. Augustine community for additional support through a crowd funding project on Donation levels range from $10 to $10,000, with different reward perks designated for each level including private ghost tours and exclusive access to the tower’s lens room.

Guy HarveyThe museum has also partnered with artist Guy Harvey to create a limited edition T-shirt for contributions at the $100 level. Harvey is a lighthouse supporter who visited the museum in 2013.

Anyone interested in donating to assist with the campaign can visit any time over the next 30 days to make a contribution and claim their perks. St. Augustine residents can also keep an eye out for paint buckets located in select community businesses where donations will be accepted as well.

During the first phase of the project (April 6th – 10th) public access to the tower will be restricted. Guests will instead have the opportunity to take a guided Lost Ships or Behind the Scenes tour free with general admission. The exclusive tours, which provide access to archaeology conservation areas normally off-limits to the public, will be offered every hour from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“We really appreciate the support that St. Augustine has shown us through the years,” said Fleming. “This lighthouse belongs to all of us and we are so proud to work together with the community to keep the legacy of our Nation’s Oldest Port shining bright.”



A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)3 non-profit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is on a mission to preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port sm as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.