What does it take to build a brand new museum exhibit? Over the next few months, we’re going to give you exclusive access behind the scenes as our team works together to create Wrecked! a new experience coming to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in May 2016.

Read previous posts in the series:

» “Boxes & Beginnings”
» “Moving Ain’t Easy”

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

– John Wooden

If you’ve visited our Light Station in the past, you know that we are actually separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a small barrier island, a gorgeous little lagoon of sorts (Salt Run), and a two-lane road.

But guess what? For our new exhibit we’re bringing the ocean INSIDE.

Okay, maybe not literally. Bringing water inside our 1876 Keepers’ House (which is on the National Register of Historic Places) would be a very bad idea.

However, our exhibit designers Architecture is Fun are definitely bringing some salty H20 vibes into the Keepers’ House with a few little details. These tiny bits and pieces will go a long way toward illustrating the excitement as well as the difficulties that come with underwater archaeology.

We want you to leave this new exhibition feeling like you just broke the surface of the Atlantic after diving on your first shipwreck.

Can you “sea” the reflections?

On crystal clear mornings at sea aboard our archaeological research vessel, R/V Roper, the ocean’s surface is often so calm and flat it looks like a glassy mirror. As our divers slip into the water, ripples echo across the surface, turning bending the reflections of our archaeology crew into fun house characters.

To recreate that experience on a slightly hyperbolic level, Sharon and Peter Exley found this eye-catching wallpaper comprised of tiny reflective circles layered over and over each other like those tiny little fun house mirrors.

Let’s just say, this isn’t your Grandma’s style of wallpaper (although it would really have kicked her guest bathroom up a notch). 


“Sea”-ing things in a new light

As soon as you step into the south side of the Keepers’ House to begin your Wrecked! exhibition experience, make sure you stop and look up!

Our old Victorian chandeliers have now been replaced with these fun fixtures. Reminiscent of bubbles, the glass panels will help reflect more light from the room’s windows and really bring a shine to the aforementioned mirrored wallpaper.

These fixtures might also remind you of another very important, prismatic glass fixture that sits about 165 feet above the new exhibit…


Shifting Sands and Seas

The 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck uncovered by our archaeology team was found about 30 feet below the ocean’s surface, hidden beneath the very sandbar that led to the ship’s demise.

As part of the new exhibit, we want to take you back to the very same sandbar to see some of the artifacts just as they were found in situ on the ocean floor.

Of course, coating the floor with sand (just like bringing actual water inside) is not a viable option for our historic structure. However, with a little imagination, we are recreating the sandbar with an installation that’s part function and part art.


Built from gorgeous pieces of stained wood, the new sandbar reflects the cadence of rolling peaks and valleys on the real ocean floor while still providing a sturdy surface for visitors to traverse.

As you walk over the recreated sandbar, you’ll be able to look below your feet at some of the artifacts that were actually recovered from the shipwreck and conserved right here at the Lighthouse.

Just wait, the big picture is coming soon!

If these little snapshots of individual details in the new Wrecked! exhibition have you thirsting for more, just wait!

Our installation team from Morley Exhibits, Displays & Experiences is coming in just a few weeks to start piecing together the big picture.

You’ll be amazed to “sea” how every little tactile detail comes together to form one big, exciting new experience at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

» Read the next post in this series, “Exclusive Sneak Peek!”

This project is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, and the State of Florida.

Shannon O’Neil, Director of Public Relations,  joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum team in 2013. She is a native of St. Augustine and holds two degrees from Florida State University.