On behalf of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, our Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming stands with our colleagues at the Florida Association of Museums against the Isolated Finds Legislation that is currently under consideration by the Florida Legislature.
Here is the official statement from FAM:
The Florida Association of Museums (FAM) represents over 400 art, history, science, and children museums in the state from the very smallest to the largest. As repositories of our cultural heritage in Florida, FAM opposes the passage of HB 803 and SB 1054, “An Act Relating to Historic and Archaeological Artifacts,” currently being considered by the Florida Legislature. If HB 803 and SB 1054 were to pass, the consequences could endanger archaeological sites all over the state and impact the integrity of Florida’s historic record and cultural heritage.
We believe that archaeological artifacts should be left in the natural environment, however there are times that progress will disrupt those areas. In those cases, experts and professionals are brought in to research, photograph, record, and interpret that particular artifact/s – that way the history can be explained and told when displayed.
There is a fundamental problem with this proposed legislation — it allows private entities and individuals to remove and take title to archeological “finds” from the state’s sovereign submerged lands with a state-issued annual permit. Many times artifacts are found close to other artifacts from the same historical period. Allowing an individual to take a single object without requiring a deeper examination of the site at which the item was found could damage the site and do irreparable harm to the archaeological and historical record. Once removed those artifacts have lost all historical context – making them of little use for future interpretation.
The potential impact for our Museum
As we prepare to launch our new exhibition, Wrecked!, later this spring, we are also reaching the pinnacle of more than six years of excavation, research, and conservation. Through our careful, scientific process, we have recovered and recorded more than 600 artifacts from a 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck located just off St. Augustine’s coast.
Each of these artifacts carries with it a piece of the story behind this wreck. This story that belongs to all of us, as it is part of our collective history. This story stitches together pieces of crucial U.S. history with St. Augustine’s own unique role North America’s past.
This is the story of our ancestors and without the precise recovery and research conducted by our team, this part of our collective heritage would still remain in the ocean’s shadows.
The isolated finds legislation endangers our ability to conduct scientific, historic research in St. Augustine. Artifacts like the ones we have been carefully working to save for future generations could be lost forever.
What can you do?
The Isolated Finds Legislation, HB 803 and SB 1054, will be returning for debate to the Florida Legislation next year.
Please stand with us and let your local representatives know that you support museums and archaeological programs like ours.
Let your representatives know that you want to preserve Florida’s history for the future!
Kathy A. Fleming
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum