Christopher Columbus, Cannons, and Capturing History on Columbus Day 2014

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New discoveries shed light on Christopher Columbus' trade routes and the only place to see these rare artifacts is at the world's largest children's museum. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis visitors even get to talk to the archaeological team that discovered the cannons and find out why they believe there are more artifacts waiting to tell the story of that time period.

Columbus era cannon on display at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

Columbus era verso (cannon) discovered in the Caribbean

These Columbus-era artifacts provide an important window into the time period of Christopher Columbus and the trade routes he established to the Americas,

“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” is a rhyme learned by just about every school child. But some of the clues left behind on subsequent voyages could paint a much clearer picture of what life was really like for the aboriginal people as well as the explorers who discovered them and their land.

As this nation prepares to celebrate Columbus Day 2014 (Monday, October 13), artifacts such as cannons, pottery, and other items give insight into the things that people made, used, and traded during the period of first contact between Europeans and the American Indians indigenous to the New World. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is proud to be working with Dr. Charles Beeker (the museum’s Extraordinary Underwater Archaeologist-in-Residence) to display brand new artifacts from that time period and help families understand why they are so valuable on Columbus Day 2014. The museum is now home to two new cannons recently discovered along one of the early trade routes Columbus established. They are on display in the National Geographic Treasures of the Earth exhibit.

“These Columbus-era artifacts provide an important window into the time period of Christopher Columbus and the trade routes he established to the Americas,” said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. “We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful partnership with Professor Beeker and the government of the Dominican Republic.”

Dr. Charles Beeker, the museum’s Extraordinary Underwater Archaeologist-in-Residence is thrilled to share the discovery, “I can’t wait for children and families to see these cannons that are from some of the earliest European shipwrecks discovered in the Americas. There are only a handful of known shipwrecks that had these types of cannons and I am pleased IU is able to research and display these unique objects at The Children's Museum."

His eyes lit up and you could feel the passion as Francis Soto, Director Tecnico, Oficina Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático (National Agency for Underwater Patrimony) said, “I am not a rich man in terms of financial wealth. I have been working there (Dominican Republic) for 37 years. My hands help uncover a lot of treasure; but, you see my pockets I have nothing (monetarily). This is so much more important because this is for the culture, this for the world to see and learn about our past. I am very happy because the government actually pays me to do what I love to do.”

There will be two new cannons on display. This is significant because it’s rare to find high quality artifacts from the earliest period of European exploration in the Americas. Families should find it interesting to see how ships used different kinds of cannons (or guns) for different purposes. The museum will have a verso (a small cannon mounted on a ship’s rail, which could be swiveled around to aim at enemies) and the earliest type of cannon known as a bombard (a large-barreled cannon that sat on the deck of the ship and was less mobile).

Exploration for the Lost Fleets of Columbus is an ongoing effort by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indiana University (Office of Underwater Science – a division of the School of Public Health), and the Oficina Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático of the Ministry of Culture of the Dominican Republic. As discoveries are made, families visiting The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis will be among the first to see some of the most historically and culturally significant artifacts of the Columbus era.

Video is available on at Please credit The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is a nonprofit institution committed to creating extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families. For more information, please visit, follow us on Twitter @TCMIndy, and YouTube.

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Kimberly Harms
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
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