The Australian Historic Shipwreck Protection Project

Dublin Core


The Australian Historic Shipwreck Protection Project


Session 7
Preservation and conservation of wet archaeological materials and site management


Australian wooden shipwrecks represent significant submerged heritage sites with huge potential to inform on historic connections, technological innovation and early colonial behavioural systems. Their archaeological potential is unfortunately often under severe threat from natural and human impacts. The Australian Historic Shipwreck Protection Project has recently been granted a large Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant to investigate the excavation, reburial and in-situ preservation of wrecks and their associated artefacts, which are at risk. This project will focus on Clarence (1850), a historically significant colonial wooden trading vessel, and brings together the disciplines of behavioural archaeology, maritime archaeology, conservation sciences and maritime object conservation. The vessel lies in Port Phillip Bay in Victoria only a few hours from Melbourne by boat and by land. The overarching theoretical focus will be on shipwreck site formation models as well as the potential of wooden historic wrecks and assemblages to elucidate early colonial history and shipbuilding.

One of the main aims of the project is to try and develop a protocol for the rapid excavation, detailed recording and subsequent in-situ preservation of significant shipwrecks and their associated artefacts, at risk. This work will foster the development of a consistent national methodology for shipwreck and artefact storage and preservation underwater and assist in developing a strategy for the in-situ preservation of endangered historic shipwrecks. This work will also be critical to the future development of national, and possibly international, policy and technical guidelines for site managers of historic wrecks.

The project will run for a period of three years. During the field work components the investigators from the University of Western Australia (UWA), the Australian National University (ANU), Monash University and the Western Australian Museum (WAM) with support from research associates and practitioners from the ten partner organisations will operate from a jack-up barge located over the site including purpose built laboratories where they will excavate circa 25-50% of the Clarence site, conduct imaging (x-ray and optical) of recovered artefacts, conserve at-risk materials (where required) and rebury structural elements and associated artefacts using a combination of in-situ preservation techniques and initiate a long-term monitoring programme for the site. Excavation methodology will be overseen by Mark Staniforth, Peter Harvey (Heritage Victoria) and Peter Veth; conservation and in-situ preservation protocols, analyses and pre- and post-reburial monitoring by Ian MacLeod and Vicki Richards; imaging co-ordinated by Dudley Creigh (and colleagues) and Andrew Viduka; geoarchaeology and Geographical Information systems (GIS) by Tony Barham and Masters of Archaeological Science candidates.


Peter Veth
Andrew Viduka
Mark Staniforth
Ian MacLeod
Vicki Richards
Anthony Barham


November 2011



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