Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre

Kevin Camidge, Richard Larn, David McBride, Carl Thorpe, 2006

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Kevin Camidge, Richard Larn, David McBride, Carl Thorpe (2006) Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


History of the Project

The collection of artifacts on display at the Charlestown Shipwreck Centre is probably the largest collection of objects recovered from historic wrecks in existence. There are well over 8000 objects on display from 70 different historic shipwrecks in UK waters. There are about 600 exhibits from 11 wrecks which are designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. This is likely to be the single largest collection of material from protected wreck sites.

An accessible record of this material is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, much of the material recovered from historic and protected wrecks is in private hands and therefore at risk of dispersal. No proper archaeological record exists for much of this material. Secondly, the record should provide a valuable research tool. Finally, the Charlestown material should help to provide a basis for future recording of maritime objects - in particular the NMR MDA Archaeological Object Thesaurus is currently missing a number of important maritime terms.

Aims of the Project

The main aim of the project is the recording of objects in the Charlestown Shipwreck Centre originating from wrecks currently protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 (PWA). The record includes a finds database, a provenance record detailing how the objects ended up in the museum and a detailed photographic record of the objects. The archive will be stored with the National Monuments Record as well as other bodies to ensure access and long term security.


The objects were removed from the display cases for recording in small batches. The objects were recorded directly to computer using a simple Microsoft Excel database. No paper records were made. A small number of items were not removed from the display cases, usually where they were deemed too fragile to be handled. Where this was the case a note was made in the record that they had not been removed and they were photographed without moving them. All objects were photographed and then returned to their display cases.

Objects were photographed using a Nikon D70 digital SLR camera with 20mm, 35mm and 60mm lenses. The camera was secured to a copy stand. The objects were illuminated using two 100w 'daylight' photo bulbs. Wherever possible a grey background was used to ensure consistent exposure of the photographs. All photographs include a metric scale, clearly labelled in either centimetres or millimetres depending on the scale used. Objects were photographed from as many angles as was required to adequately represent the artifact. For simple items such as musket shot this involved a single photograph; for more complex objects such as a gun six or seven different views were made.

Content and Structure of Dataset

  • Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre Report: Report of the project.
  • Finds Record: The finds record created by the project.
  • Photographs: Individual objects, views of display cases and general shots of the museum.

A more detailed explanation of the methods and results, together with a full bibliography, can be found in the .pdf file Dataset Methods and Description. This can be found on the downloads page.

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