Society of Submerged Culture

From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.
— Jacques-Yves Cousteau

The Society of Submerged Culture, a project by Bay Area artist Lauren Hartman, reveals the many layers of San Francisco's undersea history, ranging from sunken ships under the financial district to a coastline dotted with shipwrecks. StoreFrontLab serves as the Society headquarters offering maps, nautical instruments, an archive of artifacts, a library of submerged literature, and a variety of programs.

The Society of Submerged Culture is a membership-based organization striving to shine light on archeological discovery, catalog layers of history of San Francisco and its coastline, and archive its artifacts. Through programs and events, the Society brings together historians, explorers, archeologists, swimmers, artists, underwater enthusiasts, and sailors, to uncover and collect the stories and artifacts of our surroundings. 

“The story of San Francisco’s bustling waterfront begins in the 1840’s. It became the central port in the Pacific and the main supplier to the gold prospectors. The Gold Rush brought individuals from near and far to profit from the riches to be made in California. Many merchants took advantage of this great opportunity to use the Port of San Francisco as a The central Pacific an influx of international trade. The San Francisco Seaport became the central Pacific Port and the main supplier to the gold prospectors. Over 300,000 people immigrated to California during the Gold Rush, and most came by ship. As prospectors headed to the mines to find their fortune the waterfront was littered with abandoned ships. Wharves turned into streets, and hundreds of docked and dismantled ships turned into jails, saloons, banks, and warehouses. ”

The Society hosts a number of public programs, including a weekend film series featuring the works of Jacques Cousteau, Jean Painlevé, and Irwin Allen. Local historians and writers John Martini, Paul Judge, and Sierra Hartman join the conversation, The Submerged History and Secrets of Lands End, discussing the shipwrecks, the tunnels and the Victorian-era endeavors of Adolph Sutro. Two workshops public workshops—Explorer Kit and Creating Artifacts—invite visitors to make specialized kits for urban and coastal exploration, to sculpt, paint, and craft artifacts, to explore how we can create a dialogue with the past.