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Abandoned Shipwreck Act Guidelines

Part II. Guidelines

H. Interpreting Shipwreck Sites

Section 4(b) of the Act says that funds available to the States from HPF grants shall be available for a variety of activities, including interpretation of historic shipwrecks and properties. Whether using HPF grants, other monies, or working in partnership with the various interest groups, providing for the interpretation of publicly-owned shipwrecks helps increase the public's knowledge and understanding of our nation's maritime history and appreciation for shipwrecks and their preservation. Interpreting sites also is the only means to impart to the public the historical information and archeological discoveries that result from public and private sector shipwreck projects.

The following guidelines are offered to assist the States and Federal agencies in providing for the interpretation of shipwrecks under their ownership or control.

Guideline 1: Present information on the vessel's history and the shipwreck's various values and uses.

Interpretive efforts should strive to present to the public information about a vessel's construction, type, characteristics, age, use history, significance in history (such as participation in historical events or associations with significant individuals--like a designer, a builder or a commanding officer), and whether it is unique or representative of a vessel type. In addition, information on a shipwreck's various current and potential future values and uses should be presented.

Guideline 2: Disseminate information on shipwreck projects through publications, lectures, exhibits, and professional papers.

The results of shipwreck projects should be presented in professional reports and journals as well as in non-technical, popular publications (such as diver and non-diver magazine articles, adult and children's books, booklets, and pamphlets). Lectures, videos, slide shows, and exhibits on shipwreck projects, maritime history, underwater archeology, and opportunities for sport divers to participate in projects should be made available to dive clubs, dive shops, boat and dive shows, marinas, historical societies, elementary and secondary schools, community colleges, maritime museums, libraries, and other appropriate outlets. Papers on the results of shipwreck projects should be given at professional archeological, historical, and maritime conferences.

Guideline 3: Build models of vessels.

Models of intact shipwrecks should be made and exhibited to provide detailed, small-scale orientation and interpretation for divers and non-divers. Models would be particularly useful when diving is prohibited (such as at the U.S.S. Arizona in Hawaii), is difficult (such as at the Isabella--in dark water with a fast current--near Astoria, Oregon), or when sufficient public interest in the shipwreck exists (such as at the U.S.S. Monitor offshore of North Carolina). The process of building models also can be a popular and successful interpretive activity.

Guideline 4: Include interpretive materials in underwater parks and preserves.

The creation of underwater trails at shipwreck sites in underwater parks or preserves can be used to effectively interpret sites for divers. Sites and noteworthy features should be marked with permanent signs. Signs also should be placed on mooring buoys along trails. In addition, a site map and pamphlet (enclosed in mylar and small enough to fit into a buoyancy compensator pocket) should be prepared for individual shipwreck sites. Pamphlets, booklets, books, and exhibits should be prepared for divers and non-divers of all ages.

Guideline 5: Encourage public and private interest groups to disseminate information on shipwreck activities.

Public and private museums (particularly maritime museums) and visitor centers should be encouraged to provide lectures, slide shows, videos, and exhibits on shipwrecks, maritime history, underwater archeology, underwater photography, diving, and the marine environment surrounding shipwreck sites. When a State's shipwreck management program permits sport divers and others to collect and keep artifacts or other materials from State-owned shipwrecks, those persons should be encouraged to make items legally recovered available for museum exhibits.

Guideline 6: Require permittees, licensees, and contractors to disseminate information about recovery activities at historic shipwrecks.

When a permit, license or contract is issued for the scientific excavation, commercial salvage or treasure hunting of an historic shipwreck, the permittee, licensee or contractor should be required, as a condition to the issuance of the permit, license or contract, to:

(a) Make presentations on the results of the recovery activity and the archeological findings at professional meetings and in public forums;

(b) Prepare scientific and non-technical, popular publications; and

(c) To the extent possible, make artifacts and other materials recovered from the shipwreck available for future study, public interpretation and exhibition.

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