Category Archives: Collections

Updates from the Lab

While our beautiful new Maritime Archaeology and Education Center (MAEC) was being built, conservation was disassembled and all artifacts were put into a state of monitored wet storage. Taking those items out of storage and getting conservation back on track has been a slow and detailed process. This process requires an inventory and condition analysis of all items, as well as setting up each area of conservation in order for treatments to begin.

Though we are not quite running at 100% yet, we have made great leaps and bounds. Part of our inventory includes new items recovered from our current shipwreck, Anniversary.  Since everything was essentially put straight into a holding pattern, we are just now starting to analyze the items we recovered last summer. In fact, dredge spoil from the site is still being sorted and new items are being discovered daily.

One of our biggest challenges is to discern what items, if any, are contained within the concretions we recover. Conservation is expensive, so we must focus on items that can answer certain research questions, like the time period or the nationality of the vessel. One way for us to do this is through X-ray analysis. While x-rays won’t show 100% of what is contained within a concretion, they do show us a lot visually and help us narrow our conservation focus.

X-rays allow us to look into concretions without damaging the items inside. This particular X-ray shows a padlock.

Due to the generosity of Doctors Eric Searcy, DMV and John Yselonia, DMV at Antigua Veterinary Practice, we can now begin to take our own x-rays! They donated their previous machine for us to use in our MAEC building, and we have just begun to analyze last summer’s concretions.

gsdg
Over 25 brass tacks were found using our new X-ray machine!

Our very first in-house X-ray proved to be exiting for more reasons than just being our first X-ray.  Inside the concretion are more than 25 brass furniture tacks, something we have not encountered on our previous wreck sites, and an iron padlock. We are uncertain if either of these items will help us better date or identify this wreck, but it is always exciting to reveal what history has left us.

Contributed by Director of Archeological Conservation Starr Cox, edited by Social Media Specialist Daniel Lee

Discoveries at the Barracks

The World War II-era United States Coast Guard (USCG) structure on site is currently being restored after serving as office space for many years at the Museum. The structure was constructed after the US entered into World War II. Before December 1941, the US military was in various stages of mobilization that included increasing military personnel, munitions and equipment.

The official telegram that head keeper Daniels received, which initiated a military mobilization plan that officially directed the US Navy to absorb the USCG (note that this occurs in November 1941 before the Pearl Harbor attack).

As war was declared, there was rapid action to train troops and prepare the US for overseas warfare. As the US prepared to enter into multiple war fronts, plans were developed and initiated for home front security. As part of this process, the USCG fell under direction of the US Navy. The Museum’s collections provide a glimpse into some of these rapidly developing events and the role the Lighthouse and Light Station played during the wartime effort. We are fortunate enough to have some of the original Keepers’ records here at the Museum.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, military actions were intensified. Lighthouses along our coastline were immediately designated coastal lookouts serving to monitor boat traffic and identify any German U-boats in a region that would pose as an immediate threat. The US military forces, including the USCG, initiated routine patrol to guard our shorelines, albeit with limited resources. Coastal defense needed additional support and the USCG developed a series of infrastructure series of lookout towers strategically placed along the coastline. Additionally, a beach patrol was established on the coast with a combination of coastguardsmen: on foot with patrol dogs, on horseback and in some areas, in Jeeps. Training centers were established for this new defense effort and local infrastructure further grew to protect our coastlines from saboteurs and to help identify foreign invaders.

At our Lighthouse, the strategy was to construct a coastal lookout dwelling; it was finished and occupied in 1942. The dwelling (aka the Barracks) was built to house at least four coastguardsmen. Their job was to be on duty at the top of the tower 24/7, and report boat traffic (among other things) as part of the coastal defensive system. Unfortunately, there is limited documentation regarding this structure, but some information has been gleaned from past renovation projects as well as some of our original Keepers’ records. A Barracks reroofing project years ago produced a couple of fascinating finds. Among the layers of the former roofing projects, interesting details emerged surrounding construction activity at the Light Station. Original roof material was still present beneath a replacement metal roof. When this metal was removed, examples of original shingles were found! On the reverse side of these shingles was the name and location of the local manufacturer (nearby Palatka).

Shingles with manufacturer’s stamp.

The other amazing find was a section of roofing liner below the wood shingles with a portion of it signed by the individuals believed to have laid the roofing material, as well as the person who completed the electrical work. The fragments of paper are amazingly preserved and one can still clearly read the date of “April 28th 1942” for when the work was completed, and that the laborers were from Daytona Beach (possibly an indication of how busy it was in St. Augustine).

Fragment of paper showing the name and location of the laborers.

By the beginning of May, keeper correspondence suggests the structure is ready for occupation with mentions that the furniture has arrived (including a studio couch, for those who are curious). As staff has conducted searches in correspondence, we have previously been able to note some timeline issues or like most construction projects, a “delay” or “problem” during construction. For example, the coastal dwelling Keeper correspondence from August 1942 indicates the structure and wiring are complete, but additional work is required in order to connect to the main power line. We have also discovered that our first coastguardsmen reporting for lookout duty arrived in July 1942.

Letter from C.D. Daniels confirming arrival and subsequent assignment of coastguardsmen.

A copy of Keeper Daniels’ official report to superiors notes their arrival, and that yet again the dwelling is not quite ready for occupation. When we examine the roster of who arrives, one name is familiar to us: H.D. Defee. He is of interest to us because Defee’s name was previously found etched in concrete by the garage of the same time period. Interestingly, we know the concrete work was completed in 1944 so apparently he had at least a couple stints at the Lighthouse during the war. Restoration projects often reveal history that would not ever be found in any record. This is the case here at the Lighthouse. We suspect that as the restoration project continues, we are sure to find additional surprises!

Contributed by Chief Curator Jason Titcomb, edited by Student Intern Jayda Barnes

During the season of giving, Junior Service League of St. Augustine donated $9k to St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Group of JSL members
Donation important now more than ever as WWII Barracks restoration project is delayed and looking for more donors to jumpstart the restoration process this year

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – On December 27th, the outgoing president of the Junior Service League of St. Augustine (JSL), Katey Anderson, presented a check for $9k to the Museum. It is a continuation of a supportive partnership created over thirty-five years ago with the initiation of a “Save the Lighthouse” restoration project. Then, the property was a burned out Keepers’ House and a Lighthouse monitored by an off-site Lightkeeper. Kathy Shetler, Margaret Van Ormer and Lorri Lassiter were JSL members who helped initiate the project to restore the Keepers’ House which cost $1 million. Now they serve on the Museum’s Board of Trustees and have been involved in the Museum’s growth. Lassiter says, “Throughout the years I have watched with amazement and pride as the Museum has grown and evolved…currently restoring the World War II Barracks and having recently built the beautiful new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center which brings the Museum’s programs even closer to the public.”

Prior to this donation, the JSL contributed funds for and received naming rights to an archaeologist’s office within the new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center, completed in September of last year. This most recent donation was specifically given for use by the collections department at the Museum which will foster continued preservation and storytelling of the history and the role the JSL has played in ensuring the preservation of the Lighthouse over the years. Van Ormer adds, “It never occurred to us that we would not be successful in this challenge.”

Group of JSL members
From (L) to (R) in background: ED Kathy Fleming, Lorri Lassiter, Judy Burnett Albright, Theresa Floyd, Margaret Van Ormer, Kathy Shetler. In front: Dr. Holly Sheets.

Since the time of this donation, another restoration project – the WWII Barracks – slated to begin early this year, incurred a setback due to a reordering of a grant awardees list drafted by the state’s Historical Resources Commission. The Museum Executive Director Kathy Fleming doesn’t worry, as she says, “Just as we’ve rallied together before and have a history of doing so, we will do the same again and another compassionate and caring group of people will come forward to bring this project to life”. Longtime volunteer and Trustee Emeritus Judy Albright echoes that sentiment saying, “When you think of our ages, from when we were active until now, we still care enough to be active sustainers, it says volumes. We still love the project we undertook back in the early 80s [restoring the Keepers’ House] and decided to be more active by becoming Trustees [of the Museum]. A great testament to the Museum and why we felt it would be a light for the community then and now!”

The Museum would like to thank Katey for her incredible leadership this past year which helped to make this donation possible, as well as all the ladies past and present who have been instrumental in both organizations in keeping the light on for our community. Without their initial dedication to the cause and the continued determination to sustain the partnership between the two organizations, the Museum staff says its work would be made much more difficult to sustain. They would also like to recognize the people who have been involved with both organizations over the last few years, helping to facilitate and maintain this active partnership: Judy Burnett Albright, Kathy Fleming, Theresa Floyd, Lauren Goedelman, Barb Holland, Lorri Lassiter, Kelcie Lloyd, Holly Sheets, Kathy Shetler, Margaret Van Ormer and Loni Wellman.

The story of the JSL saving the Keepers’ House from destruction and opening as a maritime Museum is on display in the Visitors Center as a permanent exhibition. As part of the Museum, the Visitors Center is open to the visiting public during normal Museum operating hours of 9 AM – 6 PM daily. For more information about the WWII Barracks restoration and how you can help, please contact Michelle Adams at madams@staugustinelighthouse.org.

ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:
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) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® 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. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

ABOUT THE JUNIOR SERVICE LEAGUE OF ST. AUGUSTINE:
The Junior Service League of St. Augustine, Inc. is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of its members for volunteer participation in community affairs and demonstrating the effectiveness of trained volunteers within St. Johns County. The Junior Service League of St. Augustine, Inc. reaches out to women of all races, religions, and national origins who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to volunteerism. The League began in 1935 as a group of dedicated women who came together to address civic, social and cultural needs in the Nation’s Oldest City.

American Alliance of Museums Accreditation

Last year, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum sent in an application to become an accredited museum with the American Alliance of Museums.

Our Museum is working toward accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums.

The AAM has brought museums together for over a hundred years. They have assisted with the development of standards and best practices, gathering and sharing of knowledge, as well as been a catalyst for museum advocacy.

Being an accredited AAM museum is national recognition of your museum’s commitment to excellence and highest professional standards with regards to museum operation and public service.

In the United States, accreditation is one of the highest honors a museum can receive, and only around 1,000 museums are accredited.  Additionally, accreditation provides access to more resources to better serve the public trust through our mission to preserve the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port. Continue reading

What’s in a Collection? A Comical Chain Letter

Send this to 20 friends and the Lighthouse will get a pony for every share…

We have all gotten those emails asking us to “continue the chain.”

Written inside is a funny story that, if shared, will bring you luck, love, or money. However, if you break the chain you will be met with opposite results.  You might lose a shoe or your crush will never speak to you again. Though for the vast majority of us we take a look and then delete or depending on how funny it was we may send it to the next group. It has become a silly superstition that we share to brighten someone’s day. Though a century ago this was not the case.

In the summer of 1888, a school in Chicago decided to send out letters asking for support. The recipient of the letter was to send them a dime. That same person was then asked to make three copies of the letter and send those letters to their friends. Those friends send it to their three friends who then share it with their three friends before you know it; it has gone from three people to 273 people.

At the time, the population in Chicago was a little over one million. If each resident of Chicago sent in a dime the school would have $100,000. Similar campaigns were used to fund a memorial for the veterans of the Spanish-American War and a bike trail in Michigan, just to name a few. They came to be known as “Send a Dime” campaigns. While they did not make the original sender piles of money it did provide the world with a new marketing ploy.

As these letters started to veer away from money and focus on jokes and superstitions one such letter emerged. The exact date of the letter is unknown, however in 1947, several newspapers printed the letter because it was a chain letter of an entirely different kind.

chain-letter1

A copy of this letter, signed by Tommy Manville, Artie Shaw, Errol Flynn, and Charlie Chaplin, is currently in our collection. The dark humored joke gained fame as it promised the recipient over sixteen thousand women. That is, provided that he sent a copy letter to five “tired” male friends. He was also instructed to “bundle up his wife and send her to the man whose name was on the top of the list.” Continue reading