How do you restore an artifact that’s been on the ocean floor for over 200 years?

From the moment we began excavating the 1782 British loyalist shipwreck off St. Augustine’s coast in 2010, our team of archaeological conservators faced the monumental task of cleaning up all of the recovered artifacts.

Over the six field seasons spent diving on this wreck, now the subject of our new Wrecked! exhibition, more than 600 artifacts were recovered. Each one requires careful attention, from removing the outer crust to removing all of the salt soaked into the artifacts, this critical and tedious process means the difference between saving history and destroying it.

In this week’s video, take an inside look at Wrecked! with two of our conservators — Director of Archaeological Conservation Starr Cox and Assistant Archaeological Conservator Andrew Thomson — as they share what some of the exhibit artifacts looked like before conservation and some insights into the process of saving these one-of-a-kind pieces.

Video Highlights:

  • 0:31 – See what a concreted artifact looks like when it’s first recovered.
  • 1:25 – How are different types of materials treated in conservation?
  • 2:39 – What did the cannon look like when it was first recovered?
  • 3:25 – How do you conserve a shipwreck cannon?
  • 5:35 – What special item was found inside a cauldron that gave us insight into life on board the ship?
  • 6:14 – What clue was part of the concretion surrounding the ship’s bell?
  • 7:28 – What did each of our conservators enjoy the most about working on this exhibit?