Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Focused on preserving the history and archaeology of Lake Chaplain, the Lake Chaplain Maritime Museum offers visitors an opportunity to examine artifacts and to explore shipwrecks contained in the lake. One of the Museum’s popular activities is the Shipwreck Tour. Visitors travel to a wreck site by boat, once there the crew deploys a Remotely Operated Vehicle that sends back real time images of the wreck below. The museum operates two replica wooden vessels, including a replica of Benedict Arnold’s gunboat Philadelphia. Over the past thirty years, the museum’s operators have cataloged many of the lake’s 300 plus shipwrecks and have worked to communicate Lake Chaplain’s maritime history. Lake Chaplain Maritime Museum also operates camps as a way for young people to explore the lake and its history.
Backstory and Context
Operating from two locations, the museum offers visitors a broad view of Lake Chaplain’s maritime history. From Revolutionary War ships to a modern diesel powered ferryboat, the list of shipwrecks in Lake Champlain is extensive.2 Shipwreck tours are a popular way for visitors to explore this history. Tours depart from both Perkins Pier in Burlington and from Basin Harbor. Tourist view the shipwrecks via cameras on Remotely Operated Vehicles while the tour ship is anchored above the wreck.3 Temporary exhibits are frequently displayed by the museum. Recent exhibits include “Great Shipwrecks of NY's 'Great' Lakes”, “1812 Star Spangled Nation - Art Exhibit”, “Slavery to Safety: Lake Champlain and the Underground Railroad” and an exhibit of models and dioramas constructed by model maker Bill Kissam titled “History in Miniature: The Models and Dioramas of Bill Kissam.”4
Educational Programs offered by the museum teach enrollees skills such as boatbuilding and rowing. The museum developed a one-hour webcast, that is available on-line, in November of 2009. The webcast explores the Sarah Ellen, one of the lake’s many wrecks. A blacksmithing school is offered by the museum. A class designed to instruct local educators on the unique ecology and biology of the Chaplain Basin is available. The On-Water Ecology Teacher Training Workshops is designed so educators will be able to deliver labs and activities centered on the Champlain Basin to their students.5
The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is deeply involved in efforts to preserve the world’s underwater cultural heritage. To that end, the museum established the Maritime Research Institute in 2000. The Institutes principle concerns include the continuing operation of underwater archaeological sites, conservation of recovered artifacts, assistance in managing shipwrecks in Lake Champlain, providing archaeological services to other organizations.6