The new year has brought a bevy of projects for V.I. National Park Archaeologist Ken Wild and his crew, one of which is the realization of a years-old plan to renovate the archaeology museum at Cinnamon Bay.
Funding for the project is coming from the National Park Service, which dedicated approximately $200,000, and the Friends of the VINP, which raised more than $100,000 for the renovation. The historic Cinnamon Bay building will be redone inside and out, explained Wild.
“We’re going to get it fixed up with paint, new doors and windows and an alarm system and cameras,” he said. “Then hopefully by the end of this year, we’ll start actually getting the exhibits together. Everything’s falling into place.”
Wild’s ultimate goal is to use the museum as a teaching tool, he continued.
“We want it to have a good flow, so a teacher can walk in there with her class and take them all the way through the history of St. John,” said the VINP archaeologist.
Analysis of artifacts found in the park will continue at the museum, allowing students and other visitors a firsthand look at archaeologists at work. The archaeologists will also be on hand to answer questions about the exhibits, which Wild hopes will change frequently.
Hassel Island will also keep the VINP archaeology department busy this year, with plenty of historic artifacts to stabilize and restore, and numerous steps which need to be taken to make the island more accessible and comfortable for visitors.
Among the Hassel Island projects slated for 2010 is the task of making the island more accessible by boat.
“Right now it’s difficult to dock your boat there at Creque Marine, as there’s no railing or anything to protect your boat from the stone wall, so we’re going to put some historically accurate railings in,” said Wild. “We’ll also probably have new bollards cast for people to tie their boats to, and there are some historic bollards in the water that we’ll send off to do conservation work on. We have to do everything historically correct.”
The park will also look into ways to transport equipment to the island needed for metal conservation, and for somewhere to safely store that equipment, some of which is quite expensive. The St. Thomas Historical Trust has hired a landscape architect to help make Hassel Island more presentable and comfortable for the public, by possibly installing walkways, restrooms, and shaded areas.
Another Hassel Island project slated for 2010 is the first phase of the renovation of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, which put the Virgin Islands on the map in the 1800s, Wild explained.
“Every ship from the British Empire that came into the Americas offloaded in St. Thomas harbor,” he said. “That created the need for coaling stations and a place for ships to be repaired. It was a huge industry from the mid-1800s into the 1900s.”
“We have funding to start cleaning up the company and getting it in good repair,” Wild added.
Back on St. John, work will continue on the excavation of centuries-old remains found at Cinnamon Bay, a project which has been ongoing for years.
The remains, likely those of men, women and children who died in a cholera epidemic sometime between 1680 and the 1800s, have been washing up on Cinnamon Bay beach for years due to erosion. They will eventually be reburied in an ossuary with an interdenominational ceremony.
“The excavation just takes time,” said Wild. “I actually just returned from Tallahassee, where some of the human remains we’ve found are being stored, to see how much was there to determine how much room we need for the ossuary.”
The VINP archaeology department may have an even bigger task to accomplish at Cinnamon Bay, an area rich in historic artifacts, if funding comes through for the replacement of the campground’s water system.
“The excavation for that project would be a large, large archaeological dig,” said Wild. “We’d have to dig at least the first meter deep so they could install the new system. The funding hasn’t come in yet, but it’s something that’s being looked at very closely.”
Wild also plans to welcome interns from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, whose task will be to help find approximately 20 undiscovered plantations which were plotted out by the VINP archaeologist and last year’s interns.