Underwater cultural heritage in Havana: exhibition on the Navigator frigate and its British shipment
Chinaware, glassware, ornaments, buttons, compasses and barrel components are some of the items on display since 5 April at the Castillo de la Real Fuerza Museum in Old Havana, as part of the exhibition "The Navigator frigate and its British shipment: history and archaeology", where the objects rescued by underwater archaeologists and specialists from the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana (OHCH) from the wreckage of the vessel that sunk off the northern coast of the western province of Mayabeque (Cuba) will be shown for the first time.
Built in the United States at the beginning of the 19th century, the Navigator frigate set sail from Portsmouth on 27 November 1813 with a shipment of British merchandise towards Havana. It was to be its last voyage. After a hazardous crossing, on 4 February 1814, the vessel sank off the coast of Boca Chipiona, in Santa Cruz del Norte, succumbing to the perils of the sea.
At the opening of the exhibition, Roger Arrazcaeta, director of the OHCH Archaeology Department informed of the results of the preliminary archaeological and historical research conducted on the vessel through underwater exploration and the study of historical documents. The exhibition will remain open to the public in the Cuban capital until 23 June at the emblematic museum dedicated to underwater and maritime cultural heritage.
At the ceremony –presided over by Eusebio Leal, Historian of the City of Havana, and Gladys Collazo, president of the National Council for Cultural Heritage (CNPC)—Herman van Hooff, director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, recognized the importance of the meticulous research conducted by specialists from the OHCH Archaeology Department to recover the objects on display, and he also highlighted the fact that this study was conducted in the framework of the protection offered by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, signed in 2001 and ratified by Cuba in 2008, a normative tool that promotes the scientific study of submerged remains, and, above all, their protection and preservation for the benefit of all.
In his address, Van Hoof insisted that the archaeological sites hidden across the ocean floor, in the bottom of lakes and rivers have the same information potential on the development of peoples and the life of our ancestors, and he insisted on the need that these sites "be treated with the same respect and scientific approach as those archaeological sites that are studied and protected on land".
Accordingly, he stressed the importance of continuing to sensitize governments, local authorities, law enforcement agencies and people in general on the existence of this heritage, which still lacks protection and management schemes in many countries, rendering it vulnerable to pillaging by treasure-hunters.
“We should raise citizen awareness on the existence of the underwater cultural heritage. And this is exactly the purpose of our meeting here today," stated the Director of the UNESCO Office in Havana.
Leaflet on the exhibition "The Navigator frigate and its British shipment: history and archaeology" (pdf) (AVAILBLE ONLY IN SPANISH)
Address by Herman van Hooff, Director of UNESCO Regional Offfice for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean (pdf) (AVAILBLE ONLY IN SPANISH)
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