Tag Archives: Artifacts

Saying Goodbye to the Rudder

Ordinarily, in the conservation blog posts, new artifacts are discussed. Ones being worked on or items that have been finished and are ready to join the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum collection. However, this month’s post is about an artifact that is leaving our grounds and heading back from whence it came.

In October 2005, a large northeaster hit the First Coast area. Because of the wind and storm surges, large shipwreck timbers were exposed on or near the ocean shoreline. One such timber was found and reported by former Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) Director Billy Ray Morris.

Excavating the rudder from the beach.
Excavating the rudder from the beach.

It was a large, broken rudder made of five separate pieces of wood and sheathed in copper sheeting. The rudder was recorded in situ and left on the beach for a short time. In November 2005, the heavy, unwieldy artifact was lifted from the beach and moved to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM-NERR). Continue reading

Continuing Conservation: The Beat Goes On!

In the previous blogs, I have discussed the varied and lengthy conservation techniques of Storm Wreck pieces.

Typically, these methods start from the moment a site is discovered and an artifact is disturbed. Once the immediate environment and surroundings have changed, an artifact will start going through new corrosion changes. Students and/or LAMP divers have to treat objects very carefully underwater while they are dredging and carrying them up to the surface.

Once on the boat they are documented to show the condition immediately after excavation and numbered. Back on shore, they are then taken to be x-rayed and identified. Next is the long process of removing the concretion and the chlorides from the artifact. This is the phase most people think of when broaching the subject of conservation. It is also what visitors can expect to see when touring the Lighthouse grounds and coming over to the conservation area. The final active conservation step is to rinse and coat the artifact with a sealant so that it is stable and may be exposed to the environment.

However, the conservation process is not done. The artifacts on display in the new Wrecked! exhibit all went through one form or another of the aforementioned steps, but still have more work to be done on them. Even though they have been treated and are in the museum, they require monitoring and care from the conservation and collections staff.

Once an artifact is sealed and ready to go, they need to have final documentation such as measurements, photos and treatment methods written down. These notes, as well as any other relevant information, are added to our database and the State of Florida’s using a program called PastPerfect. Once they are catalogued with the state, the conservation staff hands the artifacts to the Lighthouse Collections department. Collections will then coordinate on what objects stay with the Lighthouse Museum and what are sent to Tallahassee to be added to the state’s assemblage.


Artifact card
Artifact card

For the artifacts that remain, collections and conservation staff carefully installed them in the Wrecked! exhibit. From here, they need regular check-ups to make sure the conservation worked properly and that no new threats to the objects’ stability have popped up. Continue reading

What’s in a Collection? Tobacco Card

As a youth and avid collector of sports cards when you heard the words tobacco cards it was pretty exciting.  As a kid they were considered old and rarely seen as a lad in the Midwest.  These trading cards were from the turn of the century and featured some of the most famous sport figures at the time like Cy Young, Ty Cobb, and Jack Johnson.  However, tobacco cards or trading cards were not just strictly sport cards.

2012020001_frontIn the late 1800s, the tobacco industry started to include trading cards with their product as promotional material.  Several of these card series were educational and trivia filled.  Topics ranged from historic figures, actors/actresses, military leaders, biology and even lighthouses.

In our collections we have a tobacco card from 1889.   This particular card was part of the series Yacht Colors of the World (series N91).  Yacht Colors of the World was produced in three separate series, N91 was a set of 50 cards issued by W. Duke, Sons & Co. for Duke Brand cigarettes. The series featured several actors from the day modeling these various yacht club colors and featured the club flag as well. Continue reading

An Unexpected Find!

Recently, one of our dedicated volunteers, Ed Coward, discovered something pretty fascinating. Ed comes in every Thursday to help out with artifact conservation, and he typically spends the day airscribing. This is one of our dirtiest jobs, but somehow Ed manages to stay pretty clean throughout the process as you can see in the photo.

Airscribing is the process of removing concretion (build up of sand, shells, and sediment) from artifacts that have been recovered by the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP).

Volunteer, Ed Coward, airscribing a concretion.
Volunteer, Ed Coward, airscribing a concretion.

Ed is currently working on an artifact (12S 200) from the Storm Wreck that was recovered in 2012. To get a better idea of what is inside of a concretion, we always take X-rays. These can help the conservators know where to start working, or help them find small, fragile artifacts within the concretion.

When we first looked at the X-ray image for 12S 200, we knew right away that three things were present: A hammer, nails, and a padlock.

Concretion 12S 200.1
Concretion 12S 200.1

Because the hammer and padlock were very fragile, our Assistant Archaeological Conservator, Andrew Thomson, removed those items before Ed began work on the concretion. So what we’re focused on are the nails.

You’re probably thinking “What in the world could be fascinating about nails?” right?

Well, we were too! Continue reading

Weighty artifacts

New conservation projects have taken a short break as the archaeology staff prepares for the annual Society for Historical Archaeology conference in Washington D.C., January 5-10. The SHA conference is one of the largest meetings of the year and also one of the most pertinent to underwater archaeology. The research arm of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), will be presenting findings on the Storm Wreck. Staff archaeologists, conservators and field school students will be talking about the excavation, research and interpretation of the wreck.

The aspect I will be presenting on is the assemblage of weights found throughout the site. While not exactly the first artifacts that come to mind when thinking of this 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck, they tell a very interesting story of the refugees on board, the passengers and crew during the voyage and the ship breaking apart.

The first group of weights is those that were either personal belongings or did not have something to do with the ship. The majority of these were commercial trade weights of some sort.

Three lead scale weights
Three lead scale weights

Three similar pan or balance scale weights were found separately on the site, but share similar features. These conical, bun-shaped weights are made of lead and were most likely used with a hanging balance scale. The shape suggests they were meant to rest in one of the scale’s pans. Continue reading