I can and can’t believe it’s my last week here in DC. In one respect my time here has gone about as fast as I thought it would, but it has also completely flown by. I feel that I’ve been able to do and see so much since I’ve been here, and gotten the most out of living in my country’s capital city. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to be behind the wheel again, though. I miss country roads, family and friends and, of course, my pup.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve been exposed to so much during my time with the Underwater Archaeology Branch. During one day, a few of us went to do research at the National Archives in College Park, MD. While we were there we received a list of American aircraft wrecks that took place during training exercises off the coast of Florida during World War II. As many archaeologists know, archaeology can be (and quite often is) a tedious experience, but I felt rewarded once I was finally able to locate the documents I was searching for. The experience of going to the National Archives was a unique one for me, in that I got my first (and hopefully not only) National Archives Researcher card.
Another experience I took part in was researching at the Library of Congress. I assisted on a project concerning a collection of pewter spoons from Royal Savage, the vessel I created a webpage for (the page is not operational yet). I went to the library multiple times in attempts to glean any information I could regarding the origin of these spoons from books on pewter. Since the ship was originally owned by the British and captured by the colonials, I believe many of the spoons could possibly have been made in England. Further research is needed. Regardless, the Library of Congress is without a doubt the biggest and most beautiful library I’ve ever been in. I love doing research and studying in libraries, not only because of the calm and quiet atmosphere, but surrounding myself with books (and picking random ones up to read) has become one of my favorite things to do during my years in college. You never know what you’ll learn.
A couple weeks ago, a friend from the University of West Florida contacted me for assistance on his thesis project. He wanted to know what the fasteners from Royal Savage looked like, in order to compare them to the ones he found on a vessel he’s working on. This meant I was able to photograph fasteners pulled from Royal Savage in situ. It was a win-win because by assisting my friend I gained more experience with photography and artifact documentation. There were plenty that were large and small, but one of the most intriguing fasteners was a smaller one that still had organic rope present near the head, which was put in place to help secure the fastener when the ship was first constructed back in 1775. The rope was charred and extremely fragile as a result of the British burning and sinking the ship when they recaptured it from the colonials during the Battle of Valcour Island.
I had known about the Sunken Military Craft Act (SMCA), but I’ve learned so much more about it during my time here as the Underwater Archaeology Branch acts as the primary interpreter for where, when, and how the SMCA is to be implemented. On one project I was able to assist a member of the staff in researching some vessels to determine if they were property of the US Navy when sunk so we could decide if they were protected under the Act. In the end, it’s not only important because these were vessels belonging to the United States, but also because many times they are actually war graves with sailors still interred, and these can be both American and foreign vessels in American waters. This was another reminder of how important the work done by the Underwater Archaeology Branch really is.
All in all, I am so thankful for this opportunity and feel I’ve done my best to soak up everything I can while I’m still here. I never would’ve thought I’d get to actually live and work in Washington, DC, let alone work for the Underwater Archaeology Branch. I feel like this experience has strengthened my knowledge and bolstered my expertise in maritime archaeology, while opening up new doors in the process.
I also went to a Nats-Braves game last week, but wore my 2016 World Series Champs shirt because I’ll always be a Cubs fan. Always.
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