If you are planning to travel to the Dominican Republic, you can now visit a new underwater museum that can only be accessed by snorkelers and scuba divers.
The Indiana University Center for Underwater Science's fifth Living Museum in the Sea, the 1725 Nuestra Señora de Begoña, furthers its aim of protecting and preserving historic shipwrecks and their coastal environments. It is named after a Spanish merchant vessel that sank in the early 18th century and is located in the protected waters of La Caleta Underwater National Park along the southern coast. This work is part of 25 years of ongoing IU research and excavations in the Dominican Republic, with the goal of discovering any vessels associated with Christopher Columbus' second voyage to the Americas.
According to Tori Galloway, research associate at the Center for Underwater Science, underwater museums are a creative solution to a problem unique to the Dominican Republic. Treasure hunting from shipwrecks is still legal as long as half of what is salvaged is returned to the government. This creates a situation in which it is often left with a large number of artefacts that can't survive above water, yet it doesn't have the resources to devote to proper above-water conservation. With expertise in archaeology, underwater habitats and scuba diving, the IU team have placed artefacts such as old cannons and anchors back underwater to create a mock shipwreck.
The museum has been created by the center in partnership with the government of the Dominican Republic and its royal navy, and it showcases a collection from historical shipwrecks that occurred in the waters of the Dominican coast between the 15th and 19th centuries. Measures have also been taken to facilitate access by the non-diving visitors. Many of the shipwrecks researched by IU have conserved artefacts on display in the Museo de las Atarazanas Reales, the Dominican Republic's national maritime museum in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo, a Unesco World Heritage site.
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