Smithsonian Global

Slave Wrecks Project

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Archaelogy researchers above water preparing to dive



Power to Convene
Collaboration and Innovation

The Slave Wrecks Project, a partnership between the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Iziko Museums of South Africa, the U.S. National Park Service, the South African Heritage Resource Agency, Diving With a Purpose, and the African Center for Heritage Activities, seeks to bring greater awareness to the study of sunken slave ships and build capacity for research and education in the field of maritime archaeology.

In 2015, the project confirmed the identity of a sunken slave ship—the first ever to be documented—that had been transporting enslaved Africans when it foundered. The discovery and documentation of the São José resulted from close cooperation between numerous local, national and international stakeholders. The project research not only raises the profile of the history and cultural impacts of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, but also establishes a new model of international collaboration among museums, research institutions, and the communities they represent. 



Paul Gardullo  

Since 2007, historian and curator Paul Gardullo has worked towards building the collections and exhibits for the Smithsonian’s 19th and newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Dave Conlin  

Dave Conlin is  is the Chief of the Submerged Resources Center at the National Park Service and an underwater archaeologist. 

Stephen Lubkemann   

Stephen Lubkemann is a maritime archaeologist and scholar of heritage. In 2008 he co-founded the Southern African Slave Wrecks and Diaspora Heritage Research Project, renamed the Slave Wrecks Project in 2014, and has served as the International Coordinator for the project since its founding.