Interior Department Awards Maritime Heritage Grants

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Conservation staff painstakingly prepare artifacts from the USS Monitor for display (Mariners Museum / twitter)

By Denise Krepp 2017-07-20 14:11:27

On July 7, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the recipients of the 2016 Maritime Heritage Grants. Twenty-seven entities located in thirteen states were awarded $1.7 million in grant funding.

Recipients include the Naval Historical Foundation, which will use the grant dollars to digitize documents related to the American Revolution. Primary source documents regarding leading naval heroes like John Paul Jones will be at your finger tips. Curious about the Battle of Valcour Island? You won’t have to leave your home to learn about how young naval officers slowed the British advance up Lake Champlain.

In Virginia, the Mariners’ Museum is planning on acquiring a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer. What’s that, you ask? It’s a device that can identify organic-based compounds in artifacts from the USS Monitor. The vessel is located at the Mariners’ Museum, and if you’re in the Norfolk area this summer, it’s a must see. You can easily spend five hours wandering around the exhibits halls reliving the Battle of Hampton Roads.

Maritime heritage grant funding is also helping the environment. The Dubuque County Historical Society in Iowa was awarded funds to eliminate lead-based paint and its hazards on the steam dredge William M. Black.  Earlier in her life, she was used to dredge the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

So where does the maritime heritage grant money come from? Is it appropriated by Congress? No. Does it come from the states? Nope. It comes from the sale of obsolete merchant class government vessels – those that were once operated by the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and Fish and Wildlife Service.

Metal recyclers located in Texas and Louisiana paid the U.S. Maritime Administration to dismantle the vessels. Twenty-five percent of the sale proceeds (over $75 million since 2005) funds the Maritime Heritage Grant program.      

Metal recycling facilities are located in some of the most historic parts of the country. The Texas facilities are in Brownsville. The city is next to Matamoros, Mexico, where the Mexican-American war started.  General Taylor’s success in Matamoros led to his election as President of the United States.  

The Louisiana ship recycling facilities can be found in New Orleans and Amelia. Café Du Monde is usually the first stop for tourists. But after the powdered sugar beignets are consumed, folks put down their coffee to learn about the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. It was epic. General Andrew Jackson with the help of the pirate Jean Lafitte successfully protected the city against a British invasion.

The battles I’ve mentioned above aren’t the only ones that have occurred in US waters. There are more, and if you have an exhibit about them, you are eligible to apply for the 2017 maritime heritage grants. Applications are due by September 1st.  

K. Denise Rucker Krepp is the government relations counsel for EMR USA.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.