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The Institutional Framework

While divers have been exploring shipwrecks for centuries, the scientific excavation of underwater artifacts is a relatively new field, having only come of age in the second half of the twentieth century. Today, a number of national and international organizations act in an advisory capacity for issues surrounding underwater cultural heritage management. The groups listed below serve as clearinghouses for information on newly discovered shipwrecks, ongoing excavations, and new research.

To prevent looting and the loss of critical historical information, these advisory bodies also have made a concerted effort to set standards for the treatment of shipwrecks among a global community of scholars, divers, heritage management officials, politicians, and volunteer enthusiasts. The organizations have issued several statements (see below), of which the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage is perhaps the most important. Most countries, however, have not yet been able to fully comply with the recommendations outlined in these documents—including the United States and Great Britain, despite their impressive resources for training and research in this area.

Organizations

Please note: The programs and organizations listed here are included as a resource for further information. Their presence on this website does not imply their support of the Shipwrecked exhibition.

Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology
Council of American Maritime Museums
ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) Sub-Committee on the Underwater Cultural Heritage
International Congress of Maritime Museums
Institute of Nautical Archaeology
Managing Cultural Heritage Underwater (MACHU)
Nautical Archaeology Society

Legal Framework

Penn-Brock Statement of Principles, March 2010 (PDF)
UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, 2001 (PDF)
International Congress of Maritime Museums Resolutions, 1993 (PDF)
Council of America Maritime Museums Bylaws, 1990 (PDF)
American Association of Museums, Code of Ethics, 2000 (PDF)
American Association of Museums, Guidelines on Exhibiting Borrowed Objects, 2000 (PDF)

A medium sized jar and the lead ingots that were stored inside.

Changsha bowls stacked longitudinally and overlying a frame.  More bowls were stacked on top of these.

Top: A medium sized jar and the lead ingots that were stored inside. Bottom: Changsha bowls stacked longitudinally and overlying a frame. Photos by M. Flecker.