Diving into Submerged CUltural Resources – Claudia García Quinones

Hello readers! These first couple of weeks I’ve been completely immersed with information at Padre Island National Seashore. I have begun studying and understanding the importance of the 3 ships that sunk off the coast of Padre Island in 1554 and how valuable they are as a cultural resource. I had to start by understanding what cultural resources are and their place in our present. Cultural resources are defined as any evidence of past human presence, and along with natural resources make up the rich content of Nation Parks.

In my first week I had the amazing opportunity to work with the National Park Service Submerged Resource Center and the state marine archaeologist, Amy Borgens (Texas Historical Commission) on an expedition to the archaeological site. In these few days I was able to learn more about the ships, their content, and their historical importance. I catalogued, labeled and photographed ballast stones from these ships (originally used to weight them down and keep them sitting low so they wouldn’t capsize on rough waters) and talked to the team about what they would like to see in educational material based on these ships. They informed me that these are the oldest European shipwrecks in American waters, and I was surprised at the lack of public information about them. The finding of these ships help spark state legislation to protect cultural resources found on public land. While I was in the field with the team we got caught in an intense storm where tornado sirens were blaring and we had to shelter. Since we were there around the time the ships sank we found it hilarious and timely that we would be experiencing a storm just like they had.

A large collection of the ships’ artifacts are held at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, where there is a permanent exhibit on display on the story of these ships. During my second week of this internship, my division, Science and Resources Management, traveled there to see some of the behind-the-scenes of the wrecks and to talk to the museum’s collections manager. She gave me some themes and ideas of ways to interpret the shipwreck’s in a traveling exhibit format, which is one of my main projects. I continued to research and develop themes related to the ships and their voyage. I also have to plan what material will best get this information to the public so they can share in the knowledge of this history. While most of my time is spent researching and taking notes and writing, I also got to attend training on the park’s history and landscape and really appreciate the space I’m occupying and the work that goes towards protecting its beauty and presence. I look forward to continuing to add to the rich history of the island by interpreting and educating others on this essential cultural resource.

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