Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society & Historical Museum, Key West FL
Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society

Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

The Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society is a
501 (c)(3) accredited,
not-for-profit organization existing for the purpose of accumulating and disseminating information; providing educational services to the public on maritime and colonial activity in the New World and preserving maritime culture resources.

Visit our Conservation Lab for a behind-the-scenes tour.  Offered twice a day, Monday through Friday. Purchase in combination with an admission ticket and save!

The Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society operates a two thousand square foot conservation laboratory that specializes in conserving underwater archaeological artifacts. This means all the artifacts that are either recovered from our archaeological expeditions or are donated are conserved on premises. 

Currently our collection contains approximately 100,000 artifacts and consists of a variety of inorganic and organic materials such as gold and silver bars and coins; precious jewels; various metals; glassware and ceramics; ivory as well as some organic artifacts such as wood, seeds, insect fragments, bones, and leather. The objects range from cannons, cross bows and other weaponry, to tools, ship's rigging, hardware, navigational instruments, personal items, galley utensils, shackles, trade goods and coin chests.

Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society and Museum in Key West, Fl - Conservation Lab
When you enter the conservation lab you will notice numerous large tanks that contain hundreds of coral encrusted artifacts immersed in fresh water. Artifacts recovered from wet environments must be kept wet until they are stabilized because exposure to oxygen will alter their physical and chemical state.

Each material type requires a specific treatment to become stable, and treatment may vary between a few hours to several years depending on the material type. Our conservation staff, volunteers, and interns conserve between 150 and 200 artifacts each year. After our artifacts have been successfully conserved they go on display in our galleries and traveling exhibits, or they are placed in our storage facilities and are available for scholarly research.

What is conservation?

Conservation is the process of stabilizing and protecting cultural property from further deterioration. This involves the use of specialized treatments and includes analysis, documentation, and long-term care. Conservators conduct specialized treatments to physically and chemically stabilize the artifacts to stop and prevent further deterioration. These treatments may be as simple as desalination (removing soluble salts) in water baths, or more complex involving chloride removal by electrolytic reduction. Treatments may take as little as a few hours or as long as several years. To retain the object’s integrity and diagnostic features, conservators take great care to protect and maintain the object’s original structure and appearance. It is not the goal of the conservator to restore the object to its original condition, but rather to preserve the object in its present condition and to stop further deterioration.

Conservation also involves maintaining the artifact’s condition after treatment has been completed. Conservators monitor and adjust environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and light in the galleries and storage facilities to maintain an optimal environment to help sustain the artifacts condition and increase its longevity.

Monday through Friday
8:30 - 5:00
Weekends & Holidays
9:30 - 5:00

Accredited by the American Association of MuseumsMEL FISHER MARITIME MUSEUM
200 Greene Street
Key West, Florida 33040

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