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The IWMA is a non-profit, 501c(3) public benefit corporation organized in 1991 under California’s Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law for public and charitable purposes. The goals of the Institute are to promote research and education through teaching and publication, in both print and visual media, in the maritime, social, and cultural history and archaeology of North America. This continent has a rich and varied maritime history, extending back thousands of years before its discovery by 15th century explorers. Precontact inhabitants developed coastal, riverine, and lacustrine trade based on an elaborate maritime technology. Later colonization by peoples from all over the world was accomplished largely by sea. This history has left us with a rich maritime legacy. The Institute's purpose is to research this legacy, locate historic sites and cultural resources, document, interpret, and preserve them for the education and benefit of all people.


  • • Shipwreck Analysis (submerged and onshore)

  • • Shipwreck Probability Analysis

  • • Lab Analysis

  • • Artifact Conservation

  • • Curation

  • • Cultural Resources GIS

  • • CEQA and Section 106 Compliance

  • • NRHP Nominations

  • • Historic Structure/Site Analysis

  • • Maritime History

  • • Archival/Historical Research

  • • Museum Exhibits and Media

  • • Public Interpretation

  • • Education/Documentaries

  • • Sub-bottom Profiler Surveys

  • • Magnetometer Surveys

  • • Side-Scan Sonar Surveys

  • • Multibeam Surveys

  • • Hazard/Obstruction Surveys

  • •Archaeological Monitoring

  • • ROV Operation

  • • Archaeological Survey,  Evaluation,  Data Recovery and Mitigation


Through its affiliation with Saint Mary’s College of California and the University of Rhode Island, the Institute has conducted numerous research projects that have provided students with the opportunity to gain invaluable experience in archival research, archaeological survey, excavation, documentation, conservation, and reporting, and has hopefully instilled in them an appreciation for the value and fragility of our shared maritime cultural heritage.


Since its inception in 1991, the Institute has conducted research and publication on behalf of the California State Lands Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the National Park Service, NOAA, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department Marine Patrol Unit, the National Museum of Bermuda, and the Belize Institute of Archaeology, among other agencies.

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