A ship is a microcosm where life and the activity of a group of people develop; it is a complex machine where all its elements complement one another. When a ship sinks, the objects belonging to the crew, the passengers, and those of the ship itself become historical documents, indispensable elements to be used – via a methodology – to rebuild and understand a historical moment.
In the case of the frigate Mercedes, the very few objects of this kind, fewer than sixty, are now at ARQUA, the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, and they represent much more than just a treasure: they are proof of a past time that was truncated in 1804 with the explosion aboard the frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes when the impact of a cannonball hit her powder magazine.
This small number of items prevents us from having a comprehensive idea of what life on board was like or how the "machine" actually worked: This cultural property only allows us to imagine a story that has come to us from the depths of the sea, leaving traces and clues along the way and showing us glimpses of life on board, of the kitchen, clothing and personal items. The kitchen is represented through various types of cutlery, and objects of ceramic and glass. The gold cufflinks, buckles and other objects such as a little bag containing buttons and epaulettes tell us about the clothing of the passengers and Royal Navy uniforms. Among the personal items that stand out as they are exceptional, are three gold snuff boxes that would have been custom-made and indicate that they belonged to wealthy people. There are many nautical instruments and ship hardware, all related to the history of the frigate and its load.
Each has a utilitarian purpose or aesthetic function yet are not mutually exclusive. Researching them will give us insight into the life of their owners. We will travel with each of them. At the very least we can return to hear their story, a somewhat fragmented story that has not quite ended.