The sea is, to quote Salomon Reinach from 1928, the largest museum in the world. As such, it warrants that we devote to it skills and resources that are equal to the scientific and patrimonial treasures it contains.
And the DRASSM came into being...
In 1966, France became the first country in the world to organize the protection of its underwater heritage. With the founding of the Marine Archaeology Research Directorate, André Malraux gave official validation to the existence of this fledgling scientific discipline.
Changing its name to the Marine Archaeology Research Department in 1991, it merged in 1996 with the National Centre for Subaquatic Archaeology Research, the latter having been set up in Annecy in 1980 to study matters relating to inland waters such as lakes, streams and rivers. The new organization would be called the Underwater Archaeology Research Department or DRASSM (from the French). Based in Marseilles throughout its existence, DRASSM moved out of its historic headquarters in Fort Saint Jean to Port l’Estaque in 2009.
So much to do !
DRASSM is a government agency tasked with ensuring the application of France’s Heritage Code to protect, study and promote underwater cultural heritage. The administrative and scientific aspects of its remit are managed by a team of specialists.
In 2012 the research vessel André Malraux replaced the Archéonaute which had been operating since 1967.
Recording fifty or so wrecks in its founding year (1966), today DRASSM maintains a list of 20,000 wrecks just in the waters around mainland France… The resource is immense, and as endless as it is precious for future generations.