So now we have a submarine to conserve: What do we do? A story of collaboration on the H.L. Hunley project

Paul Mardikian and Robert S. Neyland


Nearly 140 years after its historic naval engagement with the Union sloop-of-war USS Housatonic, the American Civil War submarine H.L. Hunley (1864) was successfully raised from the Atlantic Ocean in August 2000. In 2001, a multi-disciplinary team composed of archaeologists, conservators and forensic anthropologists excavated the crew compartment and uncovered the remains of the ill-fated crew along with numerous artifacts and personal belongings. Because of its size, provenience and composite nature, H.L Hunley represents a particularly unique case within the discipline of archaeological conservation. Over the years, this challenging project has become a great opportunity to learn and go beyond the boundaries of conventional academic disciplines. This article will outline the rewarding collaborative research efforts established with a wide variety of national and international institutions and individuals to ensure the long-term preservation of this vessel and associated artifacts. It will also discuss the critical role played by the non-scientists including politicians, federal and state managers, private sector entrepreneurs, and the general public.

2008 | Denver | Volume 15