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Cindy Miller
IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation

Kimberly Harms
The Children's Museum

Jaclyn Falkenstein
The Children's Museum

Last modified: Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, IU granted rare opportunity to search for artifacts

Editor's note: For a Spanish translation of this news release, visit Underwater video of expeditions at the Captain Kidd site in the Dominican Republic can be downloaded from

March 22, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Children's Museum of Indianapolis has received a $1 million grant from the Eli Lilly & Co. Foundation to support expeditions to the Dominican Republic led by Indiana University underwater archaeologist Charles Beeker.

Captain Kidd Canon

IU researchers prepare to lift one of the Captain Kidd 'great guns'

Print-Quality Photo

The award and partnership with IU will allow The Children's Museum to feature a 310-year-old cannon recovered by Beeker from Captain Kidd's ship, the Cara Merchant, which Beeker and his colleagues have been studying and developing into an underwater museum since its discovery in 2007. This cannon, one of many discovered at the site, will be the only cannon from the shipwreck site that the public will be able to view.

The funding will bring this and other real artifacts, active archeology and artifact conservation to The Children's Museum's visitors and will enhance wet labs at the museum, IU Bloomington and in the Dominican Republic. Some of the newly discovered artifacts will be displayed for the first time ever when National Geographic Treasures of the Earth opens in June 2011 at the museum.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the museum to be involved in answering lingering questions about the centuries-old mystery surrounding the fate of Captain Kidd, as well as participate in the exploration of other historically important vessels," said Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. "Usually, that is something reserved for pure scientific organizations. But with this grant, Eli Lilly & Co. Foundation is making it possible for The Children's Museum to partner with IU's Office of Underwater Science to recover significant artifacts that will be a key component of the Treasures of the Earth exhibit. And it will help us bring children and families together with real hands-on science taking place in the museum's new wet lab."

"What we are announcing today allows us to address our commitment to both science education and community development," said Rob Smith, president of the Eli Lilly & Co. Foundation. "First, this project will inspire children and families to learn more about this amazing discovery and the science behind it, including the extraordinary techniques used to bring these treasures to the surface and how they will be preserved for future generations. In short, this exhibit will underscore the value of science and research, and it will do so in very fun, exciting and engaging ways. And second, regarding community development, this project will be here at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, a cultural gem in our community, and one of the finest institutions of its kind in the world. It is one of the places that helps make Indy a special place."

Led by Beeker, director of IU's Office of Underwater Science and Educational Resources in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, the expeditions will further explore the coastal waters of the Dominican Republic.

"I have worked with the Dominican Republic's National Office for Underwater Cultural Patrimony (Oficina Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático) for nearly 20 years and we have identified areas off the coast where further explorations will be made," Beeker said. "The Dominican Republic has a rich maritime heritage ranging from Columbus and the Taino to Captain Kidd and the Golden Age of Piracy. Our two organizations work closely together to research and investigate unique shipwreck sites, with the common goal to protect them as Living Museums in the Sea. All excavations are scientifically motivated, and once artifacts are discovered and brought to the surface, they must be carefully maintained for further study and conservation so they may be preserved for future generations. In addition to the 1699 Armenian Quedagh Merchant (more commonly known as the Cara Merchant), other vessels that will be explored include ships from the 1495 Lost Fleet of Columbus and the 1725 Begoña."

Recovered artifacts will be prepared and preserved in the updated wet labs in the Dominican Republic, at IU and at The Children's Museum. Members of Beeker's team will serve as the primary scientists supporting the wet labs and will make frequent visits to The Children's Museum to oversee the conservation process and share their amazing stories with the public.

National Geographic Treasures of the Earth will provide visitors a unique and immersive family learning experience based upon real archaeological excavation sites. In addition to the shipwreck of Captain Kidd, the exhibit will feature the ongoing work at the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and the Terra Cotta Warriors from Xi'an, China.

"Visitors to the exhibition will feel as if they've embarked on an international adventure as they learn about the meticulous aspects of an archaeologist's work and take an active role in discovering and investigating these sites," said Susan Norton, director of the National Geographic Museum. "Since our founding in 1888, National Geographic has shared amazing stories and incredible discoveries with each new generation. The Treasures of the Earth exhibition at The Children's Museum is another way for us to do just that."

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a nonprofit institution committed to creating extraordinary family learning experiences that have the power to transform the lives of children and families. The 472,900-square-foot facility houses 11 major galleries. Visitors can explore the physical and natural sciences, history, world cultures, the arts, see how dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago in Dinosphere: Now You're in Their World®, experience Dale Chihuly's Fireworks of Glass and examine children's impact in shaping history in The Power of Children: Making a Difference. The Children's Museum, situated on 20 acres of land in Indianapolis, presents hundreds of programs and activities each year. For more information about The Children's Museum in English and Spanish, visit

For more information, contact Kimberly Harms, The Children's Museum, at 317-334-4003 and, or Jaclyn Falkenstein, The Children's Museum, at 317-334-4007 and For additional assistance, contact Cindy Miller, IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, at 812-855-1354 and