The St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, Inc. (LAMP) has been awarded a $499,999 grant for the First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project: Hurricane Irma Damage Assessment and Mitigation Strategy from a Hurricane Irma National Park Service Subgrant from the Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources.

Funding for this program is provided by the National Park Service (NPS) pursuant to its Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria (HIM) Emergency Supplemental Historic Preservation Fund (ESHPF) Grant Program.

“The purpose of the Hurricane Irma National Park Service Subgrant is to allow museum archaeologists to assess and mitigate damage caused by Hurricane Irma at eight previously investigated shipwreck and shoreline sites,” said Nicholas Budsberg, a LAMP archaeologist who helped write the grant.

The research funded by this grant will also allow archaeologists to re-investigate at least six offshore shipwreck sites along with two additional maritime sites located in the river bottom and tidal zone of the Tolomato River and Robinson Creek.

“The sites we are interested in are from a wide range of history and pre-history,” said Chuck Meide, Museum Archaeological Director. “We will be assessing these sites to determine a plan to best protect them from this kind of damage.”

The team will produce 3D models of the sites as they map the sites underwater. This in turn may provide opportunities to locate and document other shipwrecks and cultural heritage. It will also aid educational programming at the Museum.

“The team will map large swaths of the ocean floor with multi-beam sonar at periodic intervals over the two-year grant period,” said Brenda Swann, Director of Interpretations at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, a trained archaeologist. “This may lead to the discovery of new shipwreck sites exposed by hurricane activity, and it will give educators more information to bring to the public about how and why St. Augustine has lasted as long as it has.”

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is dedicated to preserve, present and keep alive 500 years of maritime heritage in the nation’s oldest port. As part of the Museum’s mission, the archaeologists and historians on staff not only study and preserve underwater cultural sites, but also preserve over 19,000 artifacts and archival documents holding them perpetuity for further generations. These objects carry the stories of the oldest, continually-occupied port region in the 50 states. This grant will aid the Museum in its effort to declare this region a Nation’s Oldest Port National Heritage Area. A bill doing just that was sponsored by US Representatives John Rutherford, Mike Waltz and Al Lawson during this session of Congress. Grants like this one will provide funding that promises to shed more light upon the rich maritime history contained within this National Heritage Area.

The connection between the Museum and LAMP goes back to 1999 when LAMP was created as the nonprofit research arm of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

Museum Executive Director Kathy Fleming recalls what drove the Museum to delve into archaeology.

“LAMP was created to study the maritime environs, and the reason for having a lighthouse in the first place. But our real intent remains public education, preservation and story-telling,” Fleming said.

“The Museum staff includes a team of archaeologists, conservators, curators and educators who are specialists in their associated fields. Through them the stories of our past come alive through the research, programs and exhibits at the Museum.”

If you would like to learn more about this important work, join the nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum as a Museum member. The cost is minimal, and there are also volunteer opportunities, monthly newsletters and more.

“As a member of our family you will be among the first to hear about our discoveries,” Fleming said.

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