Tag Archives: St. Augustine

Ghost Tour Experience: ‘Each floor held new secrets about the history of the Keepers’ House.’

The St. Augustine Lighthouse shown on October 31, 2018 during a Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour. Photo by Jayda Barnes

By Jayda Barnes, Flagler College student

The first thing I noticed about the Dark of the Moon Tour was that it was, indeed, very dark. The chill in the air may have been due to the setting sun or the spookiness of Halloween night. The Museum grounds, usually bright with sunlight, faded into the shadows of the trees which hovered around it. The only true source of light appeared in the beacon of its namesake: The Lighthouse.

After receiving my tickets, I rented an EMF meter to sense the electromagnetic fluctuations caused by any ghosts, mostly because I knew my best friend would glare at me all night if I didn’t.

The occasion of the evening only became more apparent as we stood outside of the Museum gift shop, waiting to be led on our spooky journey. Halloween shirts and costumes popped up sporadically in a few of the more festive guests. Promptly at 7:30 pm, our party was escorted to the base of the tower, where we learned the rules for the evening and split into groups. My group entered the Lighthouse first. We stood at the bottom of the tower and listened to the stories of ghosts seen in the past, especially the mysterious Shadow Figure who has been seen peering over the railing down at guests.

Perhaps the scariest moment of the evening came as we huffed our way up the 219 steps to the top of the Lighthouse. The exercise of it was frightening enough, but on top of that, the entire tower was shrouded in darkness, save for the few lanterns dangling along the way. Silhouetted figures painted on the walls of each landing invoked images of the Shadow Figure we’d just been told about.

Despite the fear and the height, everyone made it to the top and embraced the whipping chill of the wind. All of St. Augustine stretched below, hundreds of tiny lights peppering the ground. It was almost beautiful enough to make me forget the ghost story I was standing on.

Once the heat of the climb wore off and the wind became more chilling than relieving, the group made its way back down to the ground. Our guide led us around to the side of the Lighthouse, where she detailed the haunting tale of one Lightkeeper’s plummet from the original tower.

After catching our breath, we journeyed to the Keepers’ House. Stories of fatal accidents and irritable Lightkeepers filled the darkness. Each floor held new secrets about the history of the Keepers’ House. We ended in the basement, where we were released to explore on our own for the rest of the night.

The basement had the most activity of the evening. One man sat in one of the resident ghost’s favorite chairs. As the guest spoke to the room, EMF meters began lighting up red around his shoulders, indicating some paranormal activity. The more we spoke and scanned the room, the more lights lit up, travelling behind the chairs to the back of the room. Upstairs, we explored an area called the Shadow Room, where the energy of the room intensified as soon as we entered. My friend heard beeping in the corner as we searched the room for signs of ghostly activity.

The tour ended at 9:30 p.m., sending us back into the world to reflect on our supernatural experiences. Even with the Lighthouse looming behind us, we carried the eeriness with us into the festive evening. The tour might have been even spookier because of Halloween, but it was also even more fun because of it. As our guide told us, the Museum is “not a haunted house, just haunted.” And on Halloween, when the spiritual veil is said to be thinnest, it’s always possible the ghosts will make a special appearance, just for you.

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum awarded $15K grant from Volunteer Florida

Volunteer student interns help at summer camp each year at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. This photo is from a 2018 summer camp activity.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will receive a $15,000 grant from Volunteer Florida. The Tallahassee-based organization announced this week that it is awarding $360,000 in Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant funding to 24 nonprofit and service organizations throughout the state. Each organization will receive a $15,000 grant, and together they will match the funding with $360,000 in local donations. In total, $572,000 will be invested in Florida’s communities.

“We are grateful to Volunteer Florida for all they do for our communities, said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. “We look forward to providing even more civic engagement and educational opportunities through this amazing support!”

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, a private nonprofit, has a current volunteer program that consists of 273 volunteers who donate nearly 25,000 hours each year.

The Museum works with local colleges, namely University of North Florida and Flagler College, to provide internships and opportunities to gain relevant work experience. Internships cover all areas of the organization and include experience with public relations, graphic design, tourism management, public history and history education, underwater archaeology, and artifact conservation and care. The Museum also coordinates with local high schools to provide opportunities for high school students. These roles include office assistant, historic interpreter, collections assistant, and junior camp counselor.

Volunteer Florida’s VGF program, which is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, will help grantees use skills-based volunteers to serve Florida students, families and communities. Skills-based volunteerism expands the impact of organizations by leveraging the experience and talents of professionals, such as teachers, IT consultants, accountants and attorneys. This year, special consideration was also given to organizations that can utilize volunteers to help with disaster mitigation and response or reducing or preventing prescription drug or opioid abuse. For more information, please visit www.volunteerflorida.org.

“I’m very proud of Volunteer Florida’s administration of the Volunteer Generation Fund,” said David Mica, Jr., CEO at Volunteer Florida. “It’s a unique program, strategically promoting skills-based volunteerism in order to increase productivity within organizations, and in turn, generate a more significant impact among their respective beneficiaries throughout Florida.”

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)

Summer 2018: One Month, Two Wrecks, and so much Discovery!

Large concretion being hoisted overboard to be returned to Storm Wreck.

After two long months in the field, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program finished their field season at the end of August. And it led to many new discoveries!

Following a month of field school, with five students and four supervisors from around the country, that worked on both an offshore wreck and a river wreck, we jumped between two sites returning and recovering artifacts at the different sites.

Up close of creamware plate sherd attached to small concretion recovered from Anniversary Wreck this summer.

First, the return to Storm Wreck! It has been three years since active excavations have occurred on Storm Wreck, our 1782 Loyalist vessel. During those three years, the Lighthouse conservators and archaeologists have been prioritizing artifacts for cleaning and for return to the site. Returning artifacts to the site protection! We can’t conserve everything that we bring up, nor do we necessarily want to. Who really wants to see an exhibit filled with ONLY nails!

So this year we returned! Over two weeks, we returned five large concretions to the site. Many were filled with artifacts we already have in other open or conserved concretions or are simple the unexciting finds.

The remainder of the month we continued to excavate the Anniversary Wreck site. After weeks of feeling like we were on repeat digging the same sand from the same level over and over again (like being stuck in a revolving door or having our own Groundhog Day), we finally reached artifacts right at the end, with only four days to spare. The hole took as about four feet under the normal level of the sand! Three of the units were mapped and are being added to the site plan as we speak. Thirteen individual concretions were recovered from the site as well as BUCKETS of dredge spoil! All of which are currently being analyzed by conservators and archaeologist with the help of our amazing volunteers. The Anniversary Wreck concretions from this year, as well as the two previous years, have all be x-rayed to show their true colors.

Archaeologist Brendan Burke recovering a pewter plate from Anniversary Wreck this summer.

So far, we have discovered quite a few interesting objects amongst the all the concretions recovered from the Anniversary Wreck site. Many are filled with an exciting mixture of nails, lead shot, and brass tacks—the nuts and bolts of trade items of the 18th century. The more intricate ones show full padlocks and clothing irons. Stuck to the outside of some of these concretions are ceramics, including a piece of a creamware plate—one of the more datable items from our site. We are finally getting to the artifacts that are providing clues to solve the mystery of the Anniversary Wreck! Stay tuned for further discoveries as they come up this winter!

Archaeologists and conservators examining a large concretion with tile recovered from Anniversary Wreck this summer.

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)

 

What ‘shoe’ don’t know about archaeological shoe fragments 

These shoe buckles are on view in the Conservation Lab at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

By Elise Carroll

Assistant Archaeological Conservator

Many significant pieces of history are often over looked because of the regularity of the items occurring. Bright, shiny, seemingly significant objects, such as cannon and coins take center stage, while mundane utilitarian items are often overlooked because of their everyday use. Unsurprisingly, many of the archaeological sites we here at the lighthouse study contain these “significant” items, but they are not the only artifacts that catch our attention!

The image above is of copper shoe buckle that is on display in the window of the Conservation Lab at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

Common, everyday items, such as shoe fragments, can tell you more about the specific individuals aboard our wrecks than many of these more popular, significant items. Many of these items are plain, while some are ornate and decorated. These everyday items can provide the researcher with an estimation of class, sex, and potential origins of the members aboard a vessel.

Example of men’s shoes with a buckle from the 1700s. Source: www.timetoast.com

On many of the sites we study, including Storm Wreck, Anniversary Wreck, and Tolomato archaeological site, items associated with footwear commonly occur. Footwear should be expected because of the regular occurrence of the items throughout history.  Specifically, we have found metallic and the leather fragments of footwear.

Leather footwear contained a specific trend, beginning in the seventeenth century. A piece of history, presently associated more commonly with feminine shoes, the elevated shoe heel, originated with the French King Louis XIV and his need to create a more imposing presence by increasing his height. After this, this piece of fashion slowly began to emerge into lower and middle class societies. At the Tolomato site, we have found an intact fragment of leather shoe heel that contains wooden pegs. These wooden pegs would have been used to fasten the leather layers together creating the desired lift in the heel.

The image above depicts a shoemaker’s shop. Source: “Plate 3” Art du cordonnier. Garsault, François-Alexandre-Pierre de. 1767. Paris, France. Image provided by Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département Réserve des Livres Rares and Gallica.

Shoe buckle fragments have also been found on our archaeological sites. Shoe buckles are comprised of different pieces, a loop, chape, tongue, and a pin. On our sites, we have only found the shoe buckle loops, the most substantial part of a shoe buckle. The loops have been comprised of both copper and pewter based materials. Some of the shoe buckle loops are plain and fairly non-descript, while others are ornate with patterns. Many of these loops are desalinating, or removing the salt from the item, in the window of the Conservation Lab for our guests to see. The salt from the desalinating cupreous loops cause the solution to turn deep blue, which is always fun for guests to see!

These shoe fragments are not the only shoe related materials found on site. We just discovered a piece of shoe sole in our dredge spoil! However, the shoe sole is very modern (known to us as “modern intrusive”). Though the modern shoe fragment does not really tell us much about the historic wreck itself, it provides us more information for our site formation process theories, which is also important for archaeologists. Shoes, though not the most impressive or grandiose of artifacts, play a significant role in history and allow us to step back in time.