Treasures of the Manila Galleons
New exhibit at the San Diego Maritime Museum
San Diego, CA — The San Diego Maritime Museum will open its newest exhibit, “Treasures of the Manila Galleons,” on November 4th. Showcased aboard the tall ship Star of India, it will run until May 2002.
Manila Galleons were laden with gold and treasure; and, consequently, were the targets of seagoing marauders for 250 years. This exhibit explores the Manila galleon trade, the original commercial link across the Pacific.
Visitors will experience recently discovered pieces from the cargo of a ship that wrecked on the shores of Baja, California, about 1575 — the earliest known Manila galleon shipwreck.
Among items to be displayed are precious luxury items such as furniture, ivories, silks, objects of silver and gold, and Ming porcelain intended for the tables of the wealthy in Spain and the New World.
Other items include Spanish silver and pieces of eight that loaded down galleons on their voyages from Acapulco to Manila. The exhibit includes artifacts from a galleon that wrecked in Northern California in 1595, yielding porcelain fragments that were later incorporated into tools and ornaments by California Indians.
On display will be the only privately owned document in the world signed by the explorer who gave San Diego its name: Sebastián Vizcaíno. Designed to please visitors of all ages, the exhibit also includes specially commissioned paintings and models, weapons from the period, and more.
Another document on display is a contract signed by the unlucky Sebastián Rodríguez Cermeño, who survived the wreck of his galleon in Northern California. The contract would have made him a rich man on his next voyage if an English raider hadn’t captured his ship just before making port.
Children will enjoy hands-on activities such as usable navigational instruments and a giant-sized game in which visitors can make a virtual Acapulco-Manila round trip themselves, that is, if they survive the dangers that abound. Aboard a children’s galleon kids can dress up and imagine themselves on a trans-Pacific voyage.
Adults, too, will enjoy the opportunity to think like an archaeologist and analyze original artifacts, while younger visitors can try their own hands at excavating a site.
The INAH, Mexico’s equivalent to our National Park Service, is providing additional artifacts designed to make this exhibit even more unique and comprehensive.