Oaktoberfest (Sort of…) and a Toast


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A few years ago, one of our former conservators Elsa posted about the successful effort to disassemble the port gun carriage excavated from inside USS Monitor‘s gun turret. And last summer, Kate added a post about long-term efforts to stabilize the wooden internal components from the carriage.

One of my favorite pictures from the earlier posts shows former staff guru Gary hoisting an oak gun carriage side from the Wet Lab’s overhead crane for documentation and photography. Here it is in case you missed it:

MNMS-2002-001-469BD35 BT1
Gary with his hard-earned trophy.

Kate is back at it again. She is in the midst of efforts to perform further mechanical cleaning of the oak sides in preparation for the removal of iron bolts that run through the wood. The bolts firmly hold together the massive oak timbers that form a large portion of each gun carriage. Here is a series of X-rays we produced that show the iron bolts overlaid on a copy of the original plans for the gun carriages:

MNMS-2002-001-469BD35X-Ray copy
Composite digital image of an oak gun carriage side.

Unfortunately the wrought iron bolts and oak timbers are highly incompatible when it comes to our ongoing treatment method and these components must be separated for individual treatment followed by reassembly.

This morning Kate hoisted an oak gun carriage side from its desalination tank in preparation for a round of deconcretion and mechanical cleaning. I climbed the ladder above the treatment tank and took a series of pictures of Kate using the overhead crane to move the oak timbers to a treatment platform in another area of the Wet Lab. And yes, that is indeed a remote control for our overhead crane. Pretty cool, right?!

Kate lowering the remote-controlled 5-ton crane hoist.
Kate lowering the remote-controlled 5-ton crane hoist.
Kate rigging the hoist to the oak gun carriage side support platform.
Kate rigging the hoist to the oak gun carriage side support platform.
Kate adding tension to the lifting straps.
Kate slowly lifting the oak gun carriage side above its stainless steel treatment tank.
Kate sizing up her next move with the crane.
Kate sizing up her next move with the crane. She’s in the zone.
Kate with the oak gun carriage side fully removed from its treatment tank.
Kate with the oak gun carriage side fully removed from its treatment tank.

The last picture is my favorite. Kate is an extremely positive and pleasant person at all times. But she made it quite clear without saying a single word that I needed to put down my silly camera, get out of her way, and find something useful to do!

So please join me in a toast on this “Oaktoberfest” in July to celebrate all the honest, industrious, no-nonsense marine archaeological conservators past, present, and future who have and will make a difference in the long-term fate of the amazing collection of artifacts recovered from USS Monitor!

8 thoughts on “Oaktoberfest (Sort of…) and a Toast”

  1. I think Kate just wanted some alone time with her “friend.” After 2 1/2 years working at the Center, has she even seen it up close out of the solution?

    The summer of 2010, Elsa and Gary, “Mutt and Jeff”, what a team, what great work the did. Now it’s time for Kate to add her contribution. Some day she’ll see this lockec behind glass in the Museum, so enjoy it up close while you can :^)

  2. Kate is definitely good buddies with the gun carriage oak sides. She has worked on these components on and off over the last few years, but she will have her first “in the turret” experience when we drain that tank later this month. We are all excited.

    Kate’s also made some solid contributions and is a great member of our team. She actually spearheaded our efforts in the condenser tank back in June. All good stuff!

  3. As for the carriages, they will indeed likely end up in specialized cases so that we have the ability to maintain a specialized micro-climate. Sadly, our metal/organic composites are extremely sensitive to the slightest of changes in temperature and humidity.

  4. This is so exciting! I’m so glad to see the carriages came apart for treatment. I remember the cleaning and the beginnings of disassembly. Good times. Great work Monitor Team! You guys rock! Sending my hellos from DC!

  5. Laura, it’s great to hear from you! Thanks for chiming in and taking a look at our blog. You definitely played an important part in the modern history of these carriages. Hope all is going well for you in DC. We miss you around here!

  6. Kate, I met you briefly in Lauren’s office and was impressed with you passionate dedication. After reading the blog I am even more impressed. I applied as a volunteer. Hopefully will get to see you soon. Keep doing what you do so well.