The poster exhibitions were located at two iconic local centres for maritime history and were designed to engage visitors around issues relating to the protection of underwater cultural heritage generally, and more specifically in respect of the protection of military remains where they take the form of shipwrecked material and aircraft lost in conflict.
The subject matter is of contemporary research interest given the fact that modern salvage technologies are enabling the unregulated and in some cases illegal recovery of materials from these sites. HMS Exeter is literally a wreck that ‘disappeared’ because of salvage undertaken in the Java Sea and the vessels of a number of states’ navies have suffered similar fates. Such interventions are sensitive given that the sites are the resting places of fallen military and other personnel, and have a specific status in law. Alongside the more visible loss of cultural property and potential disturbance of remains there is often an environmental damage component – appreciating the potential costs and social impacts of polluting incidents also factor into the appreciation of the issues involved in wreck disturbance.
The topic draws together current research interests and expertise in law, conflict history and maritime archaeology as well as environmental and cultural sustainability.
Plymouth’s clear links to the military (HMS Exeter for example was Devonport constructed and based) and the Charlestown Museum’s wide-ranging collection provided a perfect backdrop to frame the exhibitions. It was hoped the posters would offer a thought-provoking introduction to some key concepts around the protection and management of underwater cultural heritage assets.
The exhibitions were of interest to those involved in heritage conservation policy, salvage law, maritime military history and wreck divers.
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