Underwater Cultural Heritage: Communication and Challenges
  • Room 605, Rolle Building

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Members of the public and experts in the discovery, retrieval, regulation, curation and communication of underwater cultural heritage (UCH) were invited for an afternoon seminar discussing the challenges inherent in engaging the public in UCH. The event showcased both national and South West expertise, and highlighted the challenges facing curators when communicating issues related to underwater cultural heritage.

Building upon previous ESRC events and current and published research by the team, this event brought together the public and experts in the discovery, retrieval, regulation, curation and communication of underwater cultural heritage (UCH) for an afternoon seminar around the challenges inherent in engaging the public in UCH.

The event promoted knowledge exchange between experts in the discovery and preservation of artefacts discovered on the sea bed, and those involved in the curation of the exhibits and the communication of the rich histories behind them.

The event was of most interest to local authority, Royal Naval and private UCH exhibitors; those with a general interest in marine archaeology; and the broader maritime history community. The Plymouth region is an enduring attraction to those interested in UCH, with numerous and significant artefacts lying on the sea bed. Some of these are accessible, while many others remain inaccessible; sometimes as a result of regulatory control limiting, or in some cases prohibiting access. 

The seminar focused on the difficulties that curators face in communicating themes such as: 

  • Obligations of UCH asset owners/licensees
  • Dangerous wrecks
  • Cultural value
  • Curation.

In the context of increasing socio-economic interest in UCH, we argue that a sustainable model is needed which respects the assets, but capitalises on the opportunities delivered to the local area through a more developed appreciation and shared ‘ownership’ of UCH. This may increase local investment, thus offering protection in the medium to long term. 

The event began with a networking lunch with poster displays and exhibits, before moving on to presentations by invited speakers. The research team then opened up the floor to promote discussion. 

This event was open to all. Contact jason.lowther@plymouth.ac.uk for any queries.

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Biography: Jason Lowther

Jason is an Associate Professor in Law at the University. His interests and expertise relate to UK and EU environmental law and the protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH). He has worked on research projects establishing the National Wildlife Crime Unit and in relation to difficulties in enforcing ‘wildlife crime’. He has delivered related research projects for the WWF and IFAW, and is a long standing trustee for the Wild Futures charity.

Jason contributed a chapter on offshore environmental assessment to English Heritage’s Marine Archaeology Legislation Project exploring the legislative options available to protect UCH. He has assisted in the drafting of advice to the MMO, Joint Nautical Archaeological Policy Committee and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and has recently concluded a research project for Historic England into the better enforcement of the laws relating to the protection of heritage assets in the English inshore marine plan area.

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