WALL TOWNSHIP — At its open house on Saturday, the New Jersey Shipwreck Museum offered a free look into the world of the New Jersey Historical Divers Association [NJHDA] and their artifact-hunting at Wall’s InfoAge complex.
The open house was a two-day affair, held from 12 to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at Building 9032 at the InfoAge complex, where the NJHDA’s collection is currently exhibited as part of the New Jersey Shipwreck Museum. However, visitors were welcome to tour the collection’s future and larger home in Building 9034, which holds a massive collection of entire boats, pieces of wrecks and loads more artifacts larger than anything that could fit in its current public space.
NJHDA President Dan Lieb told The Coast Star that the association’s goal in the museum’s expansion is interactivity and sparking a public interest in this unique subfield of marine anthropology.
“What we do is identify shipwrecks off our coasts whose identities have slipped into anonymity,” Mr. Lieb said. “We generally don’t look for shipwrecks; we identify shipwrecks that are known, but nobody knows what they are. Although we have had to look for two of them, and we found them both. All of us are divers.”
Many of the featured artifacts were presently undergoing restoration, with the team of historical divers hard at work carefully painting, retouching and repairing them with as much precision as possible. Charles Hellings is one of these volunteers—the organization is all-volunteer—and he has been working on one specific project that he is particularly proud of.
“I’ve been helping get these exhibits ready for the public,” Mr. Hellings said. “I’ve really been focusing on this beach cart, touching it up, painting, making sure the parts are authentic to what it looked like in the early 1900s.”
Mr. Lieb told The Coast Star about the accuracy of the cart’s look, saying that he received an exact color match for the paint of the chassis, which had been chipped and corroded from years of saltwater and air.
“When we brought the samples in to match them with a color of paint, we initially thought it was a lighter gray than in reality,” he said. “The paint mixer at Home Depot was skeptical though, and he flaked off a bit of the paint and discovered that the coat was actually a darker color underneath, and that the top had just faded.”
“Not only did he tell us the cart’s exact original color; the guy said, ‘I can tell you that it was semi-gloss paint,” Mr. Lieb said.
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