Newly Conserved Artifacts Now on Display!

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Just in time for Battle of Hampton Roads weekend, 10 newly conserved artifacts are now on display at the USS Monitor Center, helping to tell the story of the Monitor and the CSS Virginia.

Visitors to the Monitor Center are now greeted by the muzzle of a IX-inch Dahlgren shell gun which was used on board the Virginia on March 8th, the first day of the Battle of Hampton Roads.  A shot fired by the USS Cumberland damaged its muzzle and the gun was retired and later captured by the Union Navy as ‘Trophy No. 1’ This gun with its beautiful commemorative inscription is on loan to The Mariners’ Museum from the US Navy and has recently been cleaned and conserved.  During the process, Will found a number of historic ‘graffitti’ inscriptions not previously visible.

Also on display are the Monitor’s engine room clock and clock movement, which is now on display for the first time after an intricate process of conservation and re-integration with replica parts.   In the reconstructed crew quarters visitors can see an original bronze lamp sconce and glass chimney,  pencils used on board, and a leather Wellington boot belonging to one of the crew.

In the large artifact gallery the air flask from the port side Worthington pump can be seen along with artifacts relating to the Monitor’s sinking and original coal from the Monitor’s bunkers.

Next to the ‘as found’ replica gun turret, Dahlgren gun fittings, including sights, sight covers, and a firing hammer can be seen.

Come and see these exciting new artifacts at The Mariners’ Museum!

4 thoughts on “Newly Conserved Artifacts Now on Display!”

  1. What a lost opportunity! Instead of showing pure history, so many things were “prettied up” by either incorporating replica parts as in the case of the Monitor’s clock or by making the whole display a replica as in the case of the turret. The former is just a shame, leaving viewers with something that’s neither fish nor fowl. The latter is completely understandable, but why replicate the rusted remains rather than the as-constructed original, or better yet, the post-action configuration with dents and sprung rivets? What was the idea here? Get viewers in touch with the history, or with the sadly deteriorated present state of the ship? While these kinds of things are rampant in museums everywhere, it’s still hard to take.

    1. Thanks very much for your June 4th comments re: our
      blog post on ‘Newly Conserved Artifacts Now on Display’. It is always good to receive feedback from our blog readers and visitors to the USS Monitor Center. We are working hard to conserve the Monitor and present its original historic artifacts on display to the public. Conserved artifacts are presented ‘as is’ with evidence of the ship’s history intact and without restoration aimed at making them look like new. In the unique case of the Monitor’s clock, replica parts were added only to allow us to reassemble the extant original components. The Monitor’s turret and other large components are undergoing a conservation process which takes many years and the real turret can be seen in progress though the lab observation windows and on our online webcams. The replicas on display help show how the turret was constructed and what it looked like when it was discovered on the ocean floor until the actual artifacts are conserved and moved into the display gallery. We appreciate your concerns and comments, and encourage you to visit again in the future to see the changing nature of the gallery.

  2. Although I have not yet seen the Monitor exhibit, I have previously been to the Mariner’s Museum. I am a long-time collections and interpretive volunteer at a museum near Chicago, Illinois. I have also visited the USS Cairo exhibit at Vicksburg, where missing parts of the ironclad were gently “filled-in” visually by the use of replica framing interspersed with original material.
    I am convinced that this technique is a very appropriate and valuable way to display both very large, or small and delicate, partially disintegrated, excavated or salvaged materials. Historical items are best appreciated in their “original condition”. But such an item has two “original conditions”-the condition in which it is, and the condition in which it was made. The as-is, deteriorated state allows the artifact to tell its whole life story, and to express the universally understood story of the impermanence of man’s activities. But an artifact in deteriorated condition deprives the viewer of visualizing and understanding the entire original object. The USS Cairo approach, and your approach with some of the Monitor objects, gives the viewer the best of both worlds and provides the fullest appreciation of “original condition”.
    The use of a temporary exhibit depicting the future exhibit, for the benefit of visitors who arrive before the real one’s conservation and display is complete, is clever and approrpiate. Since the temporary one is presumably made of synthetic materials, is there any chance that it will itself be modified when the real one is ready to resemble the turret’s appearance when the Monitor was new? That could be a very useful item as an instructional space.