I picked up the small, blackened disc from the sand and gently rubbed at its surface. There looking back at me was the image of King George III of England. I had found my first treasure -the stuff dreams are made of! To actually hold in my hand one of these legendary coins and to know that the last person to touch it had died over 195 years ago, on a stormy night on September 1, 1785, was an extraordinary feeling. This was truly a gift from the sea.
My introduction to the unique and fascinating world of our maritime heritage came in 1980. After a year-long search, I finally recovered that first coin, which changed my life forever. I suddenly realized that I not only had been given the chance to shake hands with history, but that now I was also challenged with the task of preserving this artifact, as well as sharing it's story with others.
Over the past 30 years I have had the unique thrill of researching, searching, and recovering artifacts from shipwrecks and colonial sites. Each of the thousands of artifacts that I have recovered has a story to tell. A story that informs us of what life was like hundreds of years ago. By studying these artifacts, we can get an overview of what life was like centuries ago. By studying the past we can better cope with the present. By teaching the past we open doors to the future.
Since the opening of DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum eleven years ago, thousands of visitors have passed though its doors. Now that the collection has been given back to the public, through its exhibits, I feel that the artifacts can now again finally tell their stories. I hope that everyone, who leaves DiscoverSea Museum, will leave with a better understanding of our great Maritime Heritage. I pledge to you, our Museum guest, that you will always see something new and exciting.
One of DiscoverSea Museum's Research and documentation task is keeping track of our Maritime history, not only as it happened in the past, but as it unfolds in our present time. The information that we gather is only half of our goal. Sharing that information with the public insures that the history that is being gathered will live on for many generations.
Someone once said, in effect, that he, who is ignorant of his past, is forced to repeat it. Looking at our Maritime and Colonial history through the artifacts and research that we uncover, we can't help noticing certain parallels between that time and this. The world conflicts of today are all too familiar to one who has made a study of similar postures taken by Spain, England, Holland, and the middle European countries during the 17 th and 18 th centuries.
We might take as an example what happened to Spain as a result of her over-dependence on the products of other countries. With all that money, Spain went into a decline, which has only begun to recover since her incorporation into the European Union. One can only hope that our country's leaders are students of the past.
DiscoverSea Museum's first responsibility is to advance an understanding and appreciation of the natural and cultural commonwealth of our collections through education. Our goal is to teach the public the knowledge that we have gained through our findings. We will teach the importance of proper archaeology and how it affects our knowledge of any site. We will consider everyone who enters DiscoverSea an archaeologist (amateur or professional), as long as they are willing to follow the guidelines of proper archaeology and have the willingness to learn.
Dale W. Clifton Jr.