The Bronze Door Society Paves the Way for New Possibilities at the Museum!


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My pitch to The Bronze Door Society during the annual project selection dinner last fall dressed as Sherlock Holmes (and complete with an impeccable English accent, if I do say so myself) was well worth it. After months of anticipation, the Batten Conservation Complex’s new microscope, one of the projects funded by The Bronze Door Society, has finally arrived! (to learn more about The Bronze Door Society, go here:

Zeiss Axioscope 5 Microscope, equipped with transmitted and reflected bright field, dark field, polarization, and UV fluorescence. In the lab, mounted with Axiocam 305 camera with workstation and ZEN imaging software. Image credit: The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

The new Zeiss Axioscope 5  will allow conservators and scientists to view samples at high magnification with polarized light, darkfield and brightfield illumination, and ultraviolet visible fluorescence. These analytical features, in conjunction with our new workstation, camera, and imaging software, will allow us to view, capture, and share information that we previously could not attain in-house.

As an example of the invaluable improvement this microscope contributes to our lab, see the two images below taken of a sample of wood from a Monitor gun tool. The image on the left was taken with our previous setup, and the image on the right was taken with the new microscope. The cellular features we are now able to capture have clarity that is integral to the identification of this wood.


The images above only show the tip of the iceberg in terms of questions we can now tackle in the lab. Moving forward, we will look at paint cross-sections, fibers, pigments, metallographic cross-sections, and more. All of this aids in treatment decisions and add to our historical understanding of our collection (both for USS Monitor and all of the other two and three dimensional artifacts at the Museum, Library, and Archives). For example, Emilie Duncan, the Museum’s paper conservator, will be conducting fiber identification of a text block for an upcoming treatment of a book in the Library collection to establish provenance.

Emilie Duncan, Assistant Paper Conservator, viewing reference fibers under the microscope. Image credit: The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

So stay tuned! There will surely be many more blog posts about our new toy (I mean tool!) to come! Thank you to The Bronze Door Society for the continued support of our museum and its mission!


2 thoughts on “The Bronze Door Society Paves the Way for New Possibilities at the Museum!”

  1. Wow! Thank you, Paige for sharing the UHT (Ultra Hi Tech!) results revealed by your new toy (I mean instrument). So much of a Museum’s critical work goes on daily behind the walls and our visitors aren’t usually aware of the depth and breadth and hours of dedication to that work until the artifact is finally brought out amid a collective chorus of “Oooohs and Ahhhs”. We’re very proud to have played a small part in this acquisition and pleased that it has brought your and your colleagues work to a new level. We are, after all, America’s National Maritime Museum. We deserve first-class equipment and definitely first-class professionals at the controls. Thank you for the post, thank all of you for your dedication!

  2. Paige, thanks very much for posting this. You make us Bronze Door Society members feel proud to have contributed to your good work.

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