DRASSM plays an essential role in raising awareness among the public of patrimonial and ecological issues linked to the exploration of the sea.
Underwater heritage on show
In recent years underwater heritage has garnered much interest. For example, the inter-regional exhibition La Mer pour mémoire (2005–2009) attracted 235,000 visitors, while the exhibition César, le Rhône pour mémoire drew 390,000 visitors to Arles in 2009/11.
While the figures are encouraging, archaeologists refuse to let such success go to their heads. Theirs is the great responsibility of managing and protecting heritage which, UNESCO reminds us, belongs to all humanity; heritage which can have a considerable economic impact and which actively contributes to a nation’s influence in the world. Just as wrecks are for the general public a fantastic gateway into the past and an opportunity to wonder, they are for archaeologists an inexhaustible source of research topics waiting to be developed with the utmost scientific rigour.
Recounting the past to plan for the future
Exhibitions, replica underwater sites and publications are just some of the opportunities for discovery available to the general public and, in particular, diving enthusiasts, history lovers and anyone with a passionate interest in the sea. If we are to overcome the new and pressing dangers threatening wrecks and the seabed, the public needs to be educated about heritage protection and get more involved in collecting data and protecting underwater material culture. Such raising of public awareness has become, for underwater archaeologists, a function of the utmost importance.