Category Archives: Education

Minorcan cast net maker, Michael Usina, to be presented Florida Folk Heritage Award in April

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Michael Usina, St. Augustine native and Minorcan descendent, has been recognized recently by the state as a recipient of a 2019 Florida Folk Heritage Award.

Michael Usina

Usina celebrates his Minorcan heritage by crafting hand-made cast nets using techniques passed down by his ancestors who settled St. Augustine in the 18th century.

Driven by a desire to promote Minorcan folk arts, Usina has shared this tradition in one-on-one apprenticeships, a documentary and at a variety of public events including the Florida Folk Festival.

For the past seven years, he has demonstrated his craft at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. He has provided Minorcan cast net making demonstrations on the grounds of the Museum for visitors and during summer camps with the Museum’s Education Program.

Tools used by Mike Usina for creating Minorcan cast nets.

“Thanks to Mike for so enthusiastically sharing his stories and skills with campers and visitors over the last 7-plus years,” said Brenda Swann, Director of the Interpretative Division at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. “Working with him is an honor and a privilege.”

The Folk Heritage Awards are given to outstanding folk artists and advocates who have made longstanding contributions to the folklife and cultural resources of Florida. In the category of Folklife Advocate, the award recipients are James Billie, former chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Tina Bucuvalas, Curator of Arts & Historical Resources for the City of Tarpon Springs.

In the category of Folk Artist, the award recipients are Jane Wells Scott, fiddler in Tallahassee, and Michael Usina, Minorcan cast net maker in St. Augustine. Awards will be presented to the recipients in a ceremony at the Word of South Festival in Tallahassee on April 13, 2019.

“Folk artists and advocates help keep important traditions alive so they can be passed down and shared from generation to generation,” said Secretary Ertel. “The Department is honored to recognize these four individuals for their commitment to fostering Florida’s folk arts and cultural heritage.”

Usina has been making cast nets for more than 60 years using the same techniques as his Minorcan ancestors who settled North Florida more than 240 years ago. He learned the skills from his father Julian, who had learned them from his father.

Phil Castillo (left), friend of Mike Usina (center), and volunteer Tim Jackson
on the grounds of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum during
a Minorcan cast net making demonstration.

The Usinas owned a local filling station where they made nets in their spare time. By the time he was nine years old, Michael had knitted his first four foot Spanish mullet net. As a teen, he made and sold one per week and throughout adulthood, continued to make cast nets to provide for his family, eventually mastering both the Spanish and English varieties.

After retiring from a career as an airplane sheet metal mechanic for the Department of Defense, he focused his efforts on promoting his Minorcan folklife. Since 2012 he has shared net making, fishing and other aspects of maritime culture with youth at the annual summer camp hosted by the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. He served as a Master Artist in the Folklife Apprenticeship Program in 2015, led independent apprenticeships, produced the documentary The Minorcan History of Hand Made Netmaking and regularly demonstrates at community events including annually at the Florida Folk Festival.

His efforts generated growing interest in folk arts in St. Augustine garnering notice from the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida, who recommended he apply for funding. In partnership with the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, he secured enough funding to host a folk arts workshop series that included net making as well as Cuban and Greek foodways, palm frond weaving, ship modeling and Greek dancing.   

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, a private nonprofit, is open for guests  from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, with extended hours in the summer and on holidays. For ticket and tour details, go to staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse, Instagram.com/stauglighthouse, and twitter.com/firstlighthouse

Exhibit designer for Wrecked! wins Design Excellence Award  

The WRECKED! exhibit at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum won first place in the Education category from the American Society of Interior Designers. The nomination was submitted by Museum partners Peter and Sharon Exley of Architecture is Fun.

With inspiration and guidance from Museum staff and volunteers, they designed an exhibit that combines art, interactive experiences and traditional museum displays. Highlights include a recreation of an undulating sea floor and “floating ships” in the 1876 keepers’ house basement. These design elements provide a fun and unique way to portray how archaeologists discovered the story of a ship of British loyalist refugees that wrecked off the St. Augustine Coast at the end of the Revolutionary War.

“We are thrilled that this exhibition at the Museum has received recognition for design excellence,” said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. “With a mission of preservation, discovery and education of maritime history, WRECKED! is an example of how we can showcase our archaeological research into an interactive display that educates the public.”

Discover St. Augustine’s ties to the American Revolutionary War in this interactive exhibition. See artifacts from a 1782 British loyalist shipwreck found right here in St. Augustine and learn how underwater archaeologists locate historic shipwrecks on the ocean floor.

For more details about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse, Instagram.com/stauglighthouse, and twitter.com/firstlighthouse

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 St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s 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. As the ultimate mark of distinction in the museum field, accreditation signifies excellence and credibility. Accreditation helps to ensure the integrity and accessibility of museum collections,  and reinforces the education and public service roles of museums and promote good governance practices and ethical behavior. 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)

 

PHOTOS: Must-see views along the Maritime Hammock Trail

MARITIME HAMMOCK STROLL! Here are some photos taken on Monday, July 23 on a stroll through the Maritime Hammock trails on the grounds of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. We also offer a Scavenger Hunt for all ages! Search for creatures that live in this coastal habitat and learn about medicinal and historic uses of plants …

 

Find FUN items perfect for SUMMER in our gift shop

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum‘s GIFT SHOP is a fun place to visit for summer items, with family-friendly options for kids of all ages.  Whether you are visiting with children or shopping for relatives out of town, see our suggestions below! Shop online here or call a store associate at 904-829-0745.

Our summer camp interns are busy reading Ghosts of St. Augustine by Tom Lapham and Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities by Terry Breverton.

Summer is the season for reading and the GIFT SHOP is filled with more than 30 books that cover many topics, from maritime history in St. Augustine to ghost stories. Our picks for summer reading are Ghosts of St. Augustine by Dave Lapham and Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities by Terry Breverton.

Our summer camper loved finding a home on the grounds of the Museum for these cute Seaside Squirters by Melissa & Doug. She is modeling wearing a Surfer & Sailor Knot bracelet and a Milk Silk Microfiber bandana.

Little ones will adore the four friends in the Seaside Sidekicks Squirters toy set by Melissa & Doug … a fish, a sea turtle, a crab, and an octopus! The bright blue and turquoise Surfer & Sailor Knot bracelet is a colorful and fun accessory created from durable cotton that is made to stand up to every day wear. The Milk Silk microfiber multi-use bandana features a nautical print and can be worn as a scarf or a headband.

Our summer camp intern shows off a “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships” WWII Coast Guard T-shirt in front of the 1941 Coastal Lookout Quarters.

There are more than a dozen T-shirt varieties in the GIFT SHOP, including the WWII Coast Guard Station shirt above.  Shop online here for shirts including one that features 7 Florida lighthouses.

Our summer intern checks out the ship model exhibit in the Maritime Education Center while wearing a Port Authority rain coat and a Milk Silk Microfiber bandana.

Perfect for those rainy summer days, the Port Authority rain coat with a U.S. Lighthouse Service patch is available in the store in this navy color or bright yellow.

We love showing off this summer camp Lighthouse drawing with magnets from the gift shop.

Turn your refrigerator into an art gallery with St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum magnets. There are about a dozen varieties in the GIFT SHOP including the four shown above. We especially like the carved wooden one that reads “I Conquered the 219 Stairs of the St. Augustine Lighthouse,” which is Made in the U.S.A.

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