My Story

My Story: From Maritime Studies to the Coast Guard

Luke talks about his journey from school to grad school to the US Coast Guard

Author: Luke Hayes, QAR Lab Graduate Assistant

Hello! My name is Luke Hayes, and I am a graduate assistant at the QAR Conservation Lab. Originally from Greensboro, NC, I am currently a master’s student in ECU’s Maritime Studies program. I have always been fascinated by history, especially maritime history. This passion largely stems from being exposed to history at a young age. Growing up, my parents took me to tons of museums and historic sites. These visits introduced me to public history and archaeology in fun ways.
While in college, one of my majors was History. During this time, I also began to seriously consider archaeology as a career. Specifically, I developed an interest in museum work, where history and archaeology frequently come together to be shared with the public. One semester I was able to take a historical archaeology class and loved it. The class inspired me so much that I interned with the professor the following summer on an excavation of a 17th-century plantation in southeast Virginia. This introduced me to field work, as I worked at the site everyday throughout that summer. While it was extremely hot and humid, it was a great experience. I especially loved being hands on with material culture. The site produced many artifacts, several of which I uncovered myself. It was truly incredible to personally discover objects that had been lost for hundreds of years and know that they will be properly handled in a way that preserves their cultural significance. The indescribable feeling became more significant knowing that the artifacts could relate to enslaved people in Colonial Virginia. By studying archaeological sites and artifacts such as this one, we can learn more about the people who lived there and better tell their story. This gave me a personal connection to the past I had not experienced before.

Luke and C5

After graduating I knew that I wanted to pursue my passions for history and archaeology, especially in maritime settings. ECU’s program in Maritime Studies was the perfect combination of both. Especially working at the QAR Lab! Being a graduate assistant at the lab has allowed me to gain hands-on skills in archaeology and history.
I do a wide range of things at the lab. Some jobs are routine, but my tasks change daily. This fluidity excites me and keeps things fun. Since coming to the lab, I have never worked on any one project for too long at one time. Much of my time has been spent conducting solution testing, air scribing, and measuring/weighing artifacts. All these activities are exciting to me because they involve being hands-on with artifacts from Queen Anne’s Revenge. Every day I come to work I am handling artifacts from Blackbeard’s ship! Air scribing is one task I especially enjoy, and I have worked on several concretions, including a cannon, cannon balls, and smaller artifacts such as fasteners. Days that involve air scribing a cannon are always some of my favorites, along with ones where we work on an indigenous canoe found in Lake Waccamaw. My first day was one such day, as it was all-hands-on-deck to move the canoe. This was a very exciting introduction to the lab.  

Luke documenting

Working at the lab has been wonderful, and I have learned so much about lab work and archaeology. Thank you to the QAR staff, student workers, and volunteers who have taught me so much about conservation. Thank you for being so welcoming and patient when answering my endless questions. I am truly going to miss working at the lab. While I am sad to leave, I am excited for what is ahead. Starting in January, I will be attending Officer Candidate School for the United States Coast Guard. This is another long-term goal of mine, that will allow me to serve others in a maritime setting. One day I hope to return to the field of maritime studies, as I have had such an amazing time at the QAR Lab. 

Luke working on a cannon. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Luke documenting artifacts following treatment. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Related Topics: