What We Do

What does the Slave Wrecks Project do?


  • Conducts groundbreaking research on the historical African slave trade rooted in specific regions, but with a global reach, that incorporates the disciplines of maritime and historical archaeology, history and anthropology.
  • Directly links research in innovative ways to the operations of museums, to public education, to capacity-building and to diverse local and global community stakeholders.
  • Documents, cares for and conserves precious historical materials, cultural heritage and historical sites, and promotes programs that involve local and global stakeholders in this mission.
  • Trains and builds capacity for individuals and institutions, especially in Africa, across the African diaspora and in developing-country contexts, particularly in maritime and historical archaeology, archival and community-based historical and anthropological research, artifact conservation and in a variety of other forms of professional and technical training.
  • Educates diverse audiences and interprets both the history of the slave trade and the practice of the project through interpretive platforms, venues and programs.


Why is this work important?

The Slave Wrecks Project catalyzes a new field of research—maritime archaeology—in the scholarship of slavery and the slave trade, while generating an innovative model through which museums can relate research to exhibits and public education, as well as meaningfully engage with the diverse communities of local, national and international stakeholders. The project establishes a new model for international collaboration among museums and research institutions, and it links research to professional training, institutional capacity building, heritage protection and fields of heritage tourism.

Perhaps the single greatest symbol of the trans-Atlantic slave trade is the ships that carried captive Africans across the Atlantic never to return. As of yet, however, there has never been archaeological documentation of a vessel that foundered and was lost while carrying a cargo of enslaved persons. Locating, documenting and preserving this cultural heritage has the potential to reshape understandings of the past, making unique and unprecedented contributions to the study of the global slave trade. In addition, publicly displaying and interpreting this history through a variety of platforms provides the opportunity for a worldwide public to experience and grapple with authentic pieces of the past that played such a foundational role in shaping world history.