Underwater cultural heritage and maritime museums: the past and the future

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Underwater cultural heritage (UCH) has both an historical and archaeological value. It can reveal a new side to human nature and open up windows to the past. This unique heritage asset includes the remains of ships and shipwrecks, their cargoes, harbours, shipyards, quays, jetties, lighthouses, wharves, fish-traps and the now-submerged ruins of ancient cities and buildings.
Underwater cultural heritage can be presented to the general public in attractive ways and the easiest is via museums. Some museums are still following traditional and outdated methods, which confine artefacts and site information to glass showcases with written labels, which is no longer consistent with modern-day exhibition practices. Without an exciting and engaging approach to the presentation of underwater cultural heritage, museum visits often result in a lack of enthusiasm for this heritage asset. Creative ideas and methods in presenting underwater cultural heritage, i.e. effective in attracting audience, include the
reconstruction of underwater archaeological sites or entire ships that visitors can enter and explore. More recently, the use of technology for exhibitions has taken on a new dimension with the use of advanced multimedia, three-dimensional modelling and virtual reality.
This paper will discuss the dilemma of presenting underwater cultural heritage by highlighting some of the creative display methods and ideas, and outline what can be done to encourage audiences to visit museums. Furthermore, this paper will provide a brief overview of some maritime museums around the world and their strategies in presenting and displaying their collections.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIKUWA6, Shared Heritage
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the Sixth International Congress for Underwater Archaeology
EditorsJennifer A. Rodrigues, Arianna Traviglia
Place of PublicationOxford
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781784916435
ISBN (Print)9781784916428
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventShared Heritage: Proceedings of the Sixth International Congress for Underwater Archaeology - Western Australian Maritime Museum, Fremantle, Australia
Duration: 28 Nov 20162 Dec 2016
Conference number: IKUWA6


ConferenceShared Heritage


  • presenting heritage
  • recovery
  • conservation
  • maritime museums
  • 21st century


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