Two hundred and three years on from this historic event, which led directly to the declaration of war on England that December, the ‘treasure hunting’ firm Odyssey Marine Exploration located and plundered part of this frigate’s cargo, illegally transporting it to Tampa (Florida) in 2007. More than 500,000 silver and gold coins, in addition to a few remains of objects belonging to the crew, make up the rich archaeological treasure extracted from the sunken wreck that lay at a depth of 1,500 metres beneath the sea. This gave rise to a lengthy lawsuit in which the US courts finally ruled in favour of the Spanish state, acknowledging its rights to these assets and ordering their immediate return to Spain. The case sets an important international precedent in the defence of Underwater Archaeological Heritage.
The main purpose of this exhibition is to make these assets known and available to society as part of a heritage that belongs to it. The exhibition project aims to go beyond the economic worth of the coins extracted by conveying the cultural values of these objects, which are protected by law as part of Spain’s Historic Heritage. The argument is structured into seven main areas:
- Spain, Europe and the Americas around 1800
- The last mission of the frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes
- The fighting off Cape St Vincent
- Riches, earnings and goods
- An unrecoverable history
- The legal proceedings in defence of Underwater Cultural Heritage
- History as an objective: protecting Underwater Cultural Heritage
The layout seeks a perfect balance between displaying the historic objects, archaeological items and original documents that connect the different sections and the use of exhibition resources designed to convey the content most effectively to visitors: large-format audio-visual presentations, models, backdrops, computer graphics, mapping and lighting effects, interactive displays, aquariums and augmented reality.
Making of the exhibition