Recently the San Diego Archaeological Center in the San Pasqual Valley opened an exhibit on San Diego’s Fort Guijarros. The exhibit is entitled: Fort Guijarros: soldiers, Yankee whalers and fisherfolk.
At the August 5 reception Ad Munoz, curator for the exhibit, described how the Fort Guijarros exhibit was in the planning stages for over a year. The original concept included Fort Guijarros and the Presidio San Diego. Due to the extensive number of artifacts and the limited space and budget, the exhibit was narrowed to the stories behind Fort Guijarros.
Munoz said, “The goal of the exhibit was two-fold to tell the story of events that unfolded in this part of Point Loma- Ballast Point and to create dialogue between the individuals associated with the excavations and the archaeological collection.”
He continued, “It became apparent from the beginning that our challenge in tellingthe story would be problematic, due to the nature of the years spent excavating various areas on Ballast Point and the numerous artifacts recovered, and their very poor preservation.”
Eventually, it became a story that involved three interconnected tales: the people excavating the site, the original foundations of the fort, the layers of the whaling period discovered above the fort, and the uppermost layers that held the artifacts that tell the tale of military occupation in this part of San Diego.
People become the focus of the story.
Munoz said, “The artifacts that we chose for each part of the story are meant to specifically reflect an important function or use by someone during a specific period or event. The exhibit was also created to bring back the memories of the those associated with recovering the artifacts. People give meaning to events. The artifactsbecome the vessel that connects meaning, events, and the people.”
He added, “The exhibit was the result of collaboration. First between myself and my team, Cindy Stankowski, Susanne Moramarco, Russell Silberberger, and Victor Herrera and many Center volunteers and interns who gave us their time over the last year.
“Also, it became a collaboration between the Navy, San Diego State University, and Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation.”
The SDAC has curated the Fort Guijarros archaeological collection, owned by NAVFAC over the last several years. With permission from Andy Yatsko, chief archaeologist for the Department of the Navy, Southwest Division, the exhibit became a reality.
Munoz also credited Ron May and his role as chief archaeologist during the many years of excavations at Ballast Point. “Today, Ron’s records and photographs of the excavation are archived at the Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation at SDSU,” said Munoz.
Several otherorganizations helped make the exhibit a reality. Community partners included the San Diego Maritime Museum, which loaned several valuable pieces that helped tell the story of American Whalers at Ballast Point. Artifacts were also acquired on loan from Tom Vilicich of the San Pasqual Battlefield Volunteers Association,
Pete Hoffman, Jim Bryant, Michael Nabholz, Penelope Bledsoe, and Andy Shulkosky. ICF International- San Diego was a sponsor.
Built in 1796, Fort Guijarros was built to guard the entrance to San Diego Bay. Occupied by the Spanish, Mexican and eventually United States military, the fort played a key role in the early history of San Diego. The installation was excavated in 1981 to 1995, revealing thousands of artifacts documenting the lives of people who lived there.
Curated by Dr. Ad Muniz, this exhibit incorporates history, archaeology, historic documents and artifacts.
San Diego Archaeological Center is located at 16666 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido.