Category Archives: In the News

An Exciting Year of Field School and Diving Begins with Promise of Identification of Shipwreck

Twelve students will participate in the prestigious maritime archaeology program which will continue excavation on the Anniversary Wreck off the coast of St. Augustine.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – From June 26th through July 21st, The St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program will host a field school class of twelve students and six supervisors including one international student from Saudi Arabia and a range of schools across the country: University of Pennsylvania; Eastern Carolina University; University of Colorado at Boulder. This field school class will be excavating what hopes to be a promising wreck for many reasons, a positive identification as a merchant ship among them. Originally found during the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine, the dive site is affectionately named the Anniversary wreck.

“We love having returning students,” said Chuck Meide, Director of Maritime Research for the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. “As archaeologists it’s our favorite time of year to get out there and dive, but also to be doing this important work with students who are so enthusiastic make it that much more rewarding.”
The students will first go through a rigorous week-long training and preparation for diving. Diving on the shipwreck site begins in the second week. Before the students arrived for training, Museum Archaeologists prepared the practice pool at Sea Hunt Scuba with an underwater obstacle course.

The team credits previously successful dives to incredible access to an institutional research vessel Roper courtesy of David Howe, a friend of the Museum, and the support of the Institute of Maritime History. It was in 2015 that archaeologists were able to use the pattern of and amount of objects found to decipher that this wreck was possibly a merchant ship fully loaded with sellable goods, dating between 1750-1800. The implications of confirming the dates and the type of ship are what really make this shipwreck stand out as one-of-a-kind. As the premier resource for information on local maritime heritage, the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeology Division is able to confirm that this would be the oldest merchant ship found in Northeast Florida. Additionally, a merchant ship would provide us with the most extensive knowledge to date of what the St. Augustine marketplace was in need of and wanting during the time period of the ship. Objects in large quantities have already been found on this ship including shoe buckles, pewter plates, cauldrons and barrels indicating a need within the market for these common items but also the potential to find more.

As the lead archaeologist on the team, Meide insists one dive season is never enough to fully research, excavate and answer everything which is why he is excited to be going out for a second season. When asked what he hopes will come of their work this summer and if he thinks they will be able to confirm the ship as a merchant ship, “we’re at the tip of the iceberg right now,” replies Meide, “but we’re also pretty sure that’s what it is.”
For the curious, the Museum will be updating social media and its blog with stories from the field. In addition, guests are always welcome to ask about the program when visiting. During the summer, the Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. 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 PortSM. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) non-profit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest PortSM 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.

Learn About Our New Exhibit During Museum Week

Legends of the Light

After months of planning, we are less than a week away from beginning the installation of Legends of the Light a new exhibit here at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. The landings of the staircase will display historic photographs and stories of the people who lived and worked at the Lighthouse. The Maritime Archaeology & Education Center (MAEC) will present more keepers’ stories and play host to a large selection of ship models from our collection. For more information on what you will see in this exciting new exhibit, read about it here.

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Members of the Collections Division carefully relocate a display of broken Fresnel lens prisms during exhibit preparation.

Our staff members have been busy preparing for the installation for the past few weeks. Every collections item that goes into the exhibit needs careful cleaning and assessment to ensure it is in good condition. Staff has also worked hard to paint exhibit cases to get them ready for display. Old exhibit signs in the Lighthouse are being removed to make room for the new exhibit panels. Workers are quickly readying the MAEC for occupation. The exhibit fabricators are completing off-site assembly of exhibit components to ensure a smooth and quick installation process. Continue reading

Opening Soon! Legends of the Light Exhibit

Right now, the sounds of construction punctuate the Lighthouse grounds, as a new building takes shape. The Maritime Archaeology & Education Center (MAEC) will house offices, education space, a maritime archaeology center, and a new exhibit space. Behind the scenes, our Interpretation division is working with exhibit designers to create an engaging and informative exhibit detailing the history of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and the people that lived and worked there.

Maria Andreu was keeper at the Old St. Augustine Lighthouse
Maria Andreu was keeper at the Old St. Augustine Lighthouse

The new exhibit is entitled Legends of the Light with plans to open summer 2017. It will tell the stories of the lighthouse keepers and their families who called the St. Augustine Lighthouse home. Visitors will learn about the first night William Russell lit the light at the top of the tower. They will see photographs of the Old Spanish Watchtower and get to examine a model of the tower as it looked before the ocean claimed it in 1880. The exhibit also highlights the stories of Maria Andreu and Kate Harn, two keepers’ wives who themselves served as keepers at the St. Augustine Light Station after the passing of their husbands. Continue reading

WWII Era Maintenance Garage Restoration

On April 5th, the World War II-era garage here on the light station was raised by professional house movers. As part of restoring and maintaining our historic campus, the building will be converted for use as WWII Coast Guard exhibit space and for the Museum’s café. For years, soil built up around the foundation, causing moisture and termite problems that almost completely destroyed the original structural fabric. In 2008, the Museum completed some internal work to sure-up the back wall and installed a new shingle roof using replica 1940s green asphalt shingles. The 2016 work goes far deeper into the structure and it will be made as good as new by the time it re-opens to the public later this year.

The building will sit upon a new foundation slab, approximately one foot higher than the old foundation. This will prevent soil buildup and ensure the integrity of the structure for years to come. After the new foundation is poured, and utilities are installed, the moving company will lower the building onto its new home. There is a lot going on here at the Lighthouse to create new opportunities for our visitors and members and better house our existing programs. You may have noticed the new maintenance building to the south of the Visitors’ Center and the new Maritime Archaeology and Education Center on the north end of the campus. Much of the construction should be done by the middle of the summer and we look forward to opening the new buildings, exhibits, and labs to our community and patrons. Follow our activity here on the blog, on Facebook, and by visiting with us here in beautiful St. Augustine!

Click below to see the video of the raising of the WWII-era Maintenance Garage!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyGYWJIFTSE&feature=youtu.be 

Brendan Burke joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in 2007 as an archaeologist for the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program. He holds a graduate degree in Anthropology from The College of William & Mary.

We’re Ready to Make a Difference in 2017!

The new year arrived with a burst of cold air (Florida winter last three whole days this year, it was tough, but we powered through!) and the promise of exciting things on the horizon.

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Construction has begun on our new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center!

We’ve written before about our new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center, which is finally under construction, but we haven’t shared what this new facility will mean for us in terms of telling the stories of St. Augustine’s connections to World War II. Continue reading