Education, Interpretation, and Shipwrecks – Claudia García Quinones

Hello Readers! As I’ve been studying the shipwrecks odd the coast of Padre Island, I’ve also been learning how to interpret and present them in different formats for different audiences.

The core narrative is always the same: In April 1554, three Spanish ships traveling back to Spain by way of Havana, Cuba got caught in a storm and ran aground off the coast what is now Padre Island National Seashore. There were some survivors of the initial wreck, but most perished trying to walk back to Mexico (only 2 were rescued.) Later that year a salvage operation was commissioned to recover as much cargo and valuables as possible. The ships then laid undisturbed for over 400 years until they were the subject of an intense legal battle between the State of Texas and an independent treasure hunting company. This resulted in the Antiquities Code of Texas and protections for shipwrecks as submerged cultural resources.

As I develop content for a future traveling museum exhibit about these ships, I’m also creating other educational material to support it. With every project I am taking the same story and focusing on different aspects to appeal to different audiences. So far I’ve been working on webpages, a site bulletin, and a Junior Ranger activity book, all of which have varying focal points. The webpages are meant to be general knowledge, and can be more in-depth and informative. Site bulletins are very condensed and hold key ideas and information. A Junior Ranger book is specific to youth and focuses on connecting and actively engaging readers with the content. Having to adjust my mindset with each project, I am developing a strong understanding of this history from multiple perspectives.

Some of the site bulletins and guides that can be found at Padre Island National Seashore

The permanent exhibit at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History is a wonderful reference for the interpretation of these cultural resources. The exhibit includes a 2/3 scale model of the Santa Maria de Yciar (the smallest ship in the fleet) that visitors can board. They also have information on cargo, ship life, and munitions that were used on the ships along with an extensive artifact collection. Their displays are informative and easy to digest. Knowing that the exhibit I am developing will not be able to have this scope, but rather condense the same information into a traveling package, I’m trying to focus on the key themes and developing those so viewers can get a complete snapshot of these ships and their context.

There is still a lot to do as I hope to have complete copies of some of these projects by the end of the summer. I am working with staff in our education and interpretation division to develop these products and present some wonderful public resources.

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