Maritime Military Heritage: Illicit Salvage and its Consequences Poster Exhibitions

HMS Exeter. Image credit: Western Morning News

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    Devonport Naval Heritage Centre, Plymouth, Devon PL1 4RW

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    The Shipwreck and Heritage Centre, Quay Road, Charlestown, St Austell, Cornwall PL25 3NX

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The poster exhibitions are located at two iconic local centres for maritime history and are designed to engage visitors around issues relating to the protection of underwater cultural heritage generally, and more specifically in respect of the protection of military remains where they take the form of shipwrecked material and aircraft lost in conflict. 

The subject matter is of contemporary research interest given the fact that modern salvage technologies are enabling the unregulated and in some cases illegal recovery of materials from these sites. HMS Exeter is literally a wreck that ‘disappeared’ because of salvage undertaken in the Java Sea and the vessels of a number of states’ navies have suffered similar fates. Such interventions are sensitive given that the sites are the resting places of fallen military and other personnel, and have a specific status in law. Alongside the more visible loss of cultural property and potential disturbance of remains there is often an environmental damage component – appreciating the potential costs and social impacts of polluting incidents also factor into the appreciation of the issues involved in wreck disturbance.

The topic draws together current research interests and expertise in law, conflict history and maritime archaeology as well as environmental and cultural sustainability. 

Plymouth’s clear links to the military (HMS Exeter for example was Devonport constructed and based) and the Charlestown Museum’s wide-ranging collection provide a perfect backdrop to frame the exhibitions. It is hoped the posters will offer a thought-provoking introduction to some key concepts around the protection and management of underwater cultural heritage assets.

The exhibitions will be of interest to those involved in heritage conservation policy, salvage law, maritime military history and wreck divers. 

Please contact the venue(s) for opening hours.

Email jason.lowther@plymouth.ac.uk for further information.

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Today's events

Biography: Jason Lowther

Jason is an Associate Professor in Law at the University. His interests and expertise relate to UK and EU environmental law and the protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH). He has worked on research projects establishing the National Wildlife Crime Unit and in relation to difficulties in enforcing ‘wildlife crime’. He has delivered related research projects for the WWF and IFAW, and is a long standing trustee for the Wild Futures charity.

Jason contributed a chapter on offshore environmental assessment to English Heritage’s Marine Archaeology Legislation Project exploring the legislative options available to protect UCH cultural heritage. He has assisted in the drafting of advice to the MMO and the Joint Nautical Archaeological Policy Committee. He is currently leading a research project for Historic England into the better enforcement of the laws relating to the protection of heritage assets in the English inshore marine plan area.


Biography: Mike Williams

Mike is a University Visiting Research Fellow, a member of the University’s Marine Conservation and Policy Research Group (MarCoPol) and a former Honorary Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. 

He has published extensively on the law relating to the foreshore and seabed and underwater cultural heritage. He has advised government departments and agencies and was retained as an adviser to the Crown Estate (Marine Division) on foreshore and seabed law. Mike sits on the UK’s Joint Nautical Archaeological Policy Committee, is a member of the MoD’s Expert Panel on HMS Victory 1744, Deputy Chair of the Devon and Severn Inshore Fishery and Conservation Authority, Hon Secretary of the Nautical Archaeology Society, a Director of Mast Heritage, a Harbour Commissioner and a member of the Expert Network for UNESCO’s UK National Commission. 

A qualified commercial and recreational diver, Mike has conducted archaeological operations on several protected wreck sites.


About the ESRC Festival of Social Science

(extract from the ESRC* website)

The ESRC Festival of Social Science offers a fascinating insight into some of the country's leading social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future.

You may be surprised at just how relevant the festival's events are to society today. Social science research makes a difference. Discover how it shapes public policy and contributes to making the economy more competitive, as well as giving people a better understanding of 21st century society. From big ideas to the most detailed observations, social science affects us all everyday - at work, in school, when raising children, within our communities, and even at the national level.


Everyone - from schoolchildren to politicians - can take part in and hear about social science research in the festival's many engaging events.

This celebration of the social sciences takes place across the UK - via public debates, conferences, workshops, interactive seminars, film screenings, virtual exhibitions and much more.

Visit the ESRC Festival of Social Science website for more information about the festival.

* ESRC - Economic and Social Research Council.


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