Category Archives: Daily Operations

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum Receives Highest National Recognition

Awarded accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum has achieved accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies and to the museum-going public.

Alliance Accreditation brings national recognition to a museum for its commitment to excellence, accountability, high professional standards and continued institutional improvement. Developed and sustained by museum professionals for over 45 years, the Alliance’s museum accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation and public accountability. It strengthens the museum profession by promoting practices that enable leaders to make informed decisions, allocate resources wisely, and remain financially and ethically accountable in order to provide the best possible service to the public.

“AAM Accreditation has been a long time goal. It was a rigorous process for all involved including our dedicated staff and our enthusiastic Board of Trustees as well as our many volunteers. As a team, we made it to the pinnacle in our field, and we couldn’t be more pleased than we are in this moment,” said Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming. Fleming went on to add, “AAM Accreditation helps us share the importance of Florida’s museums. We are curators of community heritage and culture, passionate advocates for authentic stories and dynamic educational programs and most importantly we are stewards of the public trust.”

Of the nation’s estimated 33,000 museums, over 1,070 are currently accredited. Florida has over 400 museums according to the Florida Association of Museums database and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is one of only fifty-six accredited in the state, as well as the only accredited museum in St. Johns County.

Accreditation is a very rigorous but highly rewarding process that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations. To earn accreditation a museum first must conduct a year of self-study, and then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. The Alliance’s Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals, considers the self-study and visiting committee report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation.

“Accredited museums are a community of institutions that have chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to excellence,” said Laura L. Lott, Alliance president and CEO. “Accreditation is clearly a significant achievement, of which both the institutions and the communities they serve can be extremely proud.”

Accreditation certificate awarded by the American Alliance of Museums.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is open seven days a week from 9 AM to 6 PM with daily Behind the Scenes tours available included with admission. Visit their website for additional information at www.staugustinelighthouse.org.

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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 AMERICAN ALLIANCE OF MUSEUMS:
The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. (www.aam-us.org)

 

Archaeologists + Dating = Success Through Collaboration

The past three months have been very busy for our Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) archaeologists. They have been analyzing artifacts discovered on the Museum property during last summer’s construction of the new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center, as well as sites through St. Johns and Flagler Counties uncovered during the storms.

Our analysis started by contacting Dr. Lee Newsom, a Professor of Anthropology at Flagler College. Dr. Newsom is an expert in examining preserved plant remains from archaeological and paleontological sites as well as examining faunal remains, or bones! We were looking to determine the types of animals found in the trash pits uncovered during construction of the new Center. Once the bones were handed over, Dr. Newsom and her students at Flagler College went to work on identifying the types of animals in these pits. They came back with incredible data.

Dr. Lee Newsom directs Flagler College students on bone identification.

There are three areas we uncovered and examined: an 1880s trash pit to the north of the northern-most outdoor brick kitchen, a trash pit dating to the 1900s, and a 1930s pit near the Tin Pickle. Many of the bones in all three areas were identified as cow bones – meaning the keepers here had access to various cuts of beef on the island. Other bones included deer, turtle, snapper and turkey. All of these animals could have been caught on or around the Light Station. This knowledge brings to light the foodways of the Lightkeepers.

We also tasked Dr. Newsom and her students with dating our wood samples taken from the November canoe discovery. This canoe had shifted around during the high tides following Hurricane Irma and became quickly exposed as the high tides and storm surge subsided. To further understand the canoe, wood samples were taken by a joint team of Museum Archaeologists  and the Florida Public Archaeology Network of Northeast Florida. Tests of these samples would yield dates and a wood species. Speciation is determined by looking at the wood at a cellular level and identifying grain patterns within the wood. From their microscopic data based on one of two wood samples taken from the canoe, Dr. Newsom and her students determined the canoe to be made of cypress. Dating wood is a slow process, and only requires a tiny sliver of wood to complete. The second of the two wood samples was sent to the University of Georgia’s Center for Applied Isotope Studies. The wood is dated using radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating looks at the amount of Carbon 14 remaining in a decaying piece of floral or faunal remains. As life stops exchanging Carbon 14 with the environment upon death and Carbon 14 decays at a constant rate, the older the piece being sampled, the less Carbon 14 will be present in the wood.

Wood sample taken from canoe for dating and speciation.

The analysis determined that the canoe is 830 years old ± 30 years, from 1950. From today’s date, that translates to a dating of 1000 CE. This is well before the Spanish ever laid foot in Florida. While this does not make our canoe one of the oldest in the state, it is believed to be one of the oldest in Northeast Florida.

LAMP and FPAN archaeologists examine the dugout canoe.

Now that the hardest date to obtain – that of the canoe- was determined, the LAMP team moved on to finding dates for our artifacts! The artifacts discovered on site (pottery, children’s toys, housewares) provided us with dates through historical research based on shape and maker’s marks present on individual objects.

Further research can be done into both the Light Station and the canoe to provide a fuller history of the northeast region of Florida. We appreciate the willingness of Dr. Lee Newsom and her students as well as the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at UGA to aid us in discovering new areas to be explored regarding this wider maritime history.

Contributed by Archaeologist Allyson Ropp, edited by Student Intern Jayda Barnes

When It’s Raining in the Lighthouse

We recently had to close the Lighthouse to our climbing guests due to moisture in the Tower.  This is an interesting phenomenon that occurs, at least in my experience, only in the month of January. January is the month where we experience our coldest temperatures here in Northeast Florida, and this year was no exception. Several nights here on Anastasia Island, the temperature reached to below freezing. During these conditions, the bricks and mortar, granite and marble, that form the Tower, as well as the cast iron landings, stairs and railings, all become very cold to the touch and remain that way on the until the air flowing to the inside of the Tower warms them up again. Then, seemingly suddenly, as temperatures outside increase, a warm air mass with very high humidity surrounds and enters the Tower. As this warm air moves inside the Tower and comes in contact with the very cold surfaces, the water in the air condenses into droplets on all of those cold surfaces. During these times, every surface in the Tower is literally dripping wet, and water can be seen running down the inside walls. We always say, “It’s raining in the Tower”. No amount of wiping or mopping will make any difference until the interior surfaces of brick and iron warm sufficiently to begin to evaporate the water. This usually takes a day or two of significantly warmer air temperatures combined with lower humidity.

A recent foggy night which led to the unprecedented Tower shadow and subsequent morning closures due to “raining in the Tower”.

This same effect can be seen all around our country in the early spring as warmer air moves over the cold ground of the countryside and steamy fog begins to rise off of the frosty fields.

So if you come to visit us in January, you may be able to witness this rare phenomenon in person, but bring your rain gear. It may be raining in the Lighthouse.

Contributed by Director of Museum Services Rick Cain, edited by Student Intern Jayda Barnes

Lighting the Way

When it comes to lighthouses, lots of folks have lots of questions:

  1. Do they really need these things anymore?
  2. Does it still work? 
  3. What time does the light come on?

The answer to all three is a resounding “yes”!

You see, navigational lights along our nation’s coastlines are just as important for ship captains and mariners as runway and airport lights are for airline pilots. Just imagine telling airline pilots that they don’t need those runway lights because they have all of those instruments in their cockpits. The truth is, we still use our eyes more than any other of our five senses. Ship captains train for a very long time to be able to navigate a vessel in and around dangerous inlets and waterways and rely on coastal lights to tell them the same thing that their instruments are telling them. Just imagine if their instruments stopped working?

So does it still work? Yes! The St. Augustine Lighthouse still functions as a private aid to navigation for the U.S. Coast Guard and is the navigational beacon for St. Augustine, Florida. It really is simply a reference point along the coast telling ships where they are. Beginning in 1789, the U.S. Lighthouse Service eventually built one large navigational beacon (lighthouse), every sixty miles, on every coast of America. The purpose is so that ships can stay well offshore in deep water where they know they are safe, and every sixty miles there is a light telling them their exact position along the coast. Smaller buoys and lights are used to mark inlets and channels. The focal plane of the light needs to be approximately 160 feet above sea level so that the light is visible many miles out to sea. In the southeast United States where the land is very low and flat, many tall towers had to be built to get the light to this level as opposed to a location that has a 130 foot bluff.  In that location you would only need a 30 foot tall lighthouse to reach 160 feet like the lighthouse at Split Rock, Minnesota on Lake Superior for example. Some lighthouses can have a focal plane of closer to 200 feet above sea level, like Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Heceta Head, Oregon.  

Each light has different characteristics so you tell which one you are seeing. The “daymark” is simply a physical description of the lighthouse structure from the sea. But many of the tall towers looked the same and were thus assigned a special mark or fancy paint job so you can identify them more easily. Our daymark is black and white spiral stripes with a red lantern on top. At night, each light has a different flash pattern, or “nightmark”, so you can easily identify them after dark. The St. Augustine Lighthouse has a “30-second fixed flash.” This means that the light is visible all of the time at night, and it also flashes every thirty seconds. No other lighthouse has this “nightmark.” Each light’s distinguishing characteristics are published for ship captains in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation (ATON) guide as well as in books and computer programs.

Even though we still have keepers here at the Lighthouse, our Lighthouse is automated. An electric motor turns our first-order Fresnel lens to create the flash every 30 seconds while a photo cell on the west side of the tower turns the light on when the sun sets and off after the sun rises. We keepers ensure that the automated systems are working and the original lens rotation mechanism is well oiled and maintained.

P.S.  Our Lighthouse even changes its own lightbulb! More on that in another entry.

Post contributed by Rick Cain, Director of Museum Services Division

For National Pickle Day, Museum announces new name and logo for its treats-on-the-go concept, the Tin Pickle

Chosen from 34 Flagler College design students’ submissions, the Tin Pickle Local Gedunk logo debuts

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A winner has been chosen from among thirty-four submissions from Flagler College Professor Natalie Stephenson’s design classes for a new food concept at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Lauren Curtis’ torpedo design with nose art will be the logo for the Tin Pickle which is a snack counter in the newly-restored WWII Garage, recently unveiled during the Museum’s Grand Opening in September. The WWII Garage featuring the Tin Pickle Local Gedunk is one of two buildings in the Maritime Heritage Park depicting local WWII history.  The second building in the WWII story is the Barracks for which the Museum is planning a restoration start date in December.  The name was coined the Tin Pickle in early September and a joint project with Professor Stephenson’s class was launched soon after.  As part of the design challenge, the project began with a visit to the Museum and the Tin Pickle to get an idea of setting, food offerings and goals for how the staff wanted to convey the local WWII history through this new food experience.

Museum spokesperson Tonya Creamer said, “We are excited to announce the official name – the Tin Pickle Local Gedunk.  From the outset we knew we wanted it to be a fun, quirky and unique place to grab a bite to eat while visiting the Museum.  The name is WWII slang, as is the tagline, Local Gedunk, meaning local snack counter.  That portion of the name was suggested by our winning student designer, Lauren Curtis.  She and the other students really took our design challenges head on in their design and tagline suggestions.”  The logos were presented to Museum staff, eventually narrowing down the choices to four finalists:  Sean Brunner; Caitlin Lopez; Lauren Curtis; Lisa Schweikert.  In regards to the chosen design, Creamer said, “Lauren’s design really spoke to us and checked off all of our boxes.  It uses the colors from our era buildings, has a 40s personality to it and also introduces to the visitors the Local Gedunk phrase which we hope will encourage conversation between the staff and visitors.”  Curtis has already agreed to continue working with the Museum on further design needs as they develop materials relating to and for the Tin Pickle.

Student design winner Lauren Curtis stands with her logo at the Tin Pickle

Students who participated in the collaboration project shared their thoughts on the process of working with a nonprofit client.  One student, Caitlin Lopez, said, “It was a fun and unique experience to create a logo for this local community business. Having visited the Lighthouse many times in childhood, I was excited to try and create something for them, and interested in the changes that were occurring there. This design also came with many challenges that were fun to try and find a solution for: a tagline, the relationship of the Lighthouse to the eatery, what to call it, the historical context, etc.  In the end, it is satisfying to create something for a local business that needed our help.”

The Tin Pickle is currently undergoing testing for its menu.  It is open to the visiting public during normal Museum operating hours of 9 AM – 5 PM daily.

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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