Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Receives CVNHP Grant for Nautical Archaeology Archive

lcmm Underwater Archaeology

A 2016 Conservation and Community Grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership heralds an important new initiative for Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, a project titled Collections & Recollections: Preserving Peter Barranco’s Legacy. Grant funds are helping LCMM initiate long-term preservation and research access to a nationally significant collection recently donated to LCMM. “The Maritime Museum is deeply grateful to Peter Barranco for his gift, and to the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership for helping LCMM initiate the long-term preservation and access of this important collection,” said Executive Director Mike Smiles.

Peter Barranco assisting Lorenzo F. Hagglund during salvage operations on the wreck of steamboat Vermont in September 1953. The first Lake Champlain steamboat, Vermont was built in Burlington 1808-09, and sank in the Richelieu River in October 1815.   Credit: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Barranco Collection

Peter Barranco assisting Lorenzo F. Hagglund during salvage operations on the wreck of steamboat Vermont in September 1953. The first Lake Champlain steamboat, Vermont was built in Burlington 1808-09, and sank in the Richelieu River in October 1815.
Credit: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Barranco Collection

In 2014, A. Peter Barranco, nautical archaeologist and historian, transferred his research collection to LCMM. “This is an amazing resource,” commented Eloise Beil, LCMM’s Director of Collections and Exhibits, who is managing the project. “Mr. Barranco’s life work has been to assemble comprehensive information related to Lake Champlain vessels. His collection fills an entire office with materials documenting Lake Champlain’s sailing vessels, naval vessels, steamboats, ferries, and canal boats, and the people who built, owned, and operated them.”

Early in his career, Mr. Barranco worked for Lorenzo F. Hagglund (ca. 1894-1961), who conducted search and salvage operations on many important Lake Champlain shipwrecks including the 1776 Philadelphia (now in the Smithsonian), and Royal Savage (returned to the U. S. Navy in July, 2015), and the lake’s first steamboat, Vermont, which began service in 1809. Many of Hagglund’s records, given to Barranco for his research, were included in the gift to LCMM. Peter Barranco has also been a research affiliate of LCMM since the museum’s founding in 1986, and served as navigation control specialist and historian during LCMM’s Sonar Survey of Lake Champlain Shipwrecks from 1996–2002. For more than half a century, until failing eyesight forced his retirement, Peter Barranco provided research support on underwater archaeological projects conducted in Lake Champlain and responded to queries from the general public.

“We will share highlights of Peter Barranco’s collection and some of his recollections with the public this summer in our Nautical Archaeology Center through exhibition and an oral history video,” explains Eloise Beil, LCMM’s Director of Collections and Exhibits. “This project will also inform the public about the preservation of important documents. Archival management of the Barranco Collection will ensure that the records he gathered will continue to be available to guide long term stewardship and preservation of Lake Champlain’s historic shipwrecks.” Conservation and Community Grant funding will provide archival quality storage for this massive and highly significant collection. The work will take place in LCMM’s Conservation Lab with ongoing public interpretation of the process. The museum is currently seeking a summer intern with an interest in archaeology, archives, or museum studies to help with this work. The accompanying video will also share the importance and methods of caring for collections of historic documents. “It is an honor to carry forward the work of previous generations of Lake Champlain’s nautical archaeologists,” Beil concluded.

In addition to rehousing the Barranco Collection in archival storage materials, a collection scope and content note and inventory will be created to facilitate research access. LCMM staff will work with Vermont State Archaeologist Jess Robinson to develop research access protocols and plan for future digitization for preservation and access to the collection. Andy Kolovos, Archivist and Co-Director of the Vermont Folklife Center, will provide guidelines for the oral history interviews of Peter Barranco, which will be on deposit at LCMM and at the VT Folklife Center archives. The 8-10 minute video created for LCMM’s mini-exhibit on the project will be distributed through RETN and YouTube.

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s 4-acre lakeside campus is open daily from May 21 through October 9. Founded in 1986 to preserve and share the maritime heritage of the Champlain Valley, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum shares underwater discoveries and lake history with the public through engaging exhibits, dynamic hands-on learning opportunities, full-scale working replica vessels, and innovative on-water experiences.  As a year-round educational service provider, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum connects with more than 2,500 Elementary and Middle School Students through valuable place-based learning, ecology and nautical archaeology experiences and other programming with museum educators. Find more information at www.lcmm.org , Facebook, or call 802 475-2022.