Mystery Object

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Mystery object’s x-ray

Hi all,

Among other endeavors, a mystery object was found within our collection. It is a lengthy, semi-oblong shaped concretion, excavated in 2001 in proximity to the engine room of the Monitor. It has been stored dried for a while, and a recent look at it showed that at least four straps of leather were intertwined within the hard mixture of corrosion products and calcite. In addition to the leather, a couple copper alloy ornate buttons were also identified. A few X-rays were performed in-house last week to attempt a better identification of the object. Unfortunately the thickness of the concretion did not allow for a very clear image. See for yourself:   Read more

The port Dahlgren gun carriage is fully disassembled!         

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Details of the bottom plates, friction plates and friction rollers. View from below and transverse section. Peterkin, 1985.

Last week Will was able to escape his desk for a few days and help take apart the last elements of the port gun carriage.

The complete braking mechanism was still in place, but by separating all of the parts  we are able to maximize the amount of salts extracted from the artifact down the road (aka: a conservator’s dream!). After studying the historic blue prints (see historic plan below), we knew that one piece was the key to this puzzle. We also knew that we would need access to both the upper- and under-side of the carriage. In order to gain access to both, Will custom welded a rig allowing the artifact to stand vertically during treatment.   Read more

Quick Lab Update

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Last week, dry ice cleaning was performed on the port gun carriage’s wrought iron frame. This is the second time that this object has been cleaned with this technique. The first time was last spring and the carriage has been under electrolytic reduction since April. Speaking of electrolytic reduction (AKA “ER”), we often mention it but rarely explain the method. This is a stabilization technique that is used every day in this lab (and broadly in the field of conservation) and we can forget that it is not a simple matter… Our website has a great animation to illustrate the process, check it out here!

Last Wednesday was quite an exciting day for the team as we had fellow East Coast archaeological conservators visiting for the entire day! Nichole Doub from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, Johanna Rivera from the Clemson University Restoration Institute (working on  the H.L. Hunley in Charleston, SC) as well as Emily Williams from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation were introduced to the joy that is dry ice blasting. Our project manager, Will, worked to establish the ideal parameters to clean wrought iron artifacts from the USS Monitor collection with dry ice over the last few years. During our colleagues’ visit, he shared the process that has been developed here and advised them on the procedure to follow, should they decide to invest in such a cleaning tool in the future. The day resulted in many nerdy conservation discussions regarding the original surface of artifacts, active corrosion processes and other pH related questions. Thrilling!!   Read more

What else?!

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Laurie and I cleaning the starboard gun carriage tank
Laurie and I cleaning the starboard gun carriage tank

In addition to the “tank-farm-team-effort” that has been going on here for almost three months, a lot of work has been done around the lab. On Mondays and Fridays, tanks are either draining or filling which gives us all the opportunity to carry on other treatments.
For instance, a few weeks ago Laurie and I cleaned the starboard carriage tank. Microorganism growth had been developing over the summer due to the increased heat and light and it was time to give it a little TLC.

Lesley and I later cleaned another large tank in the wet lab containing a ventilation engine. Maintenance requires not only scrubbing the tanks, but also changing reference electrodes, making sure the multimeters and pH probes are working properly and preparing new solutions. This involves lifting 50lbs sodium hydroxide bags. Yes we can!
Recently we were also all very pleased with the treatment outcome of an air flask from the starboard Worthington pump. Images speak for themselves:   Read more

News from the “cheese box part of the raft”

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Chekcing connection between the nutguards and teh "anode table" in the turret
Checking connections between the nutguards and the “anode table” in the turret

We have been quite busy in the turret these past weeks and are making great progress!

While Lesley, Kate and I worked inside the turret to gently deconcrete, remove the nutguards and clean behind them, Will has been fabricating custom-made anodes for said nutguards. He first welded together a large stainless steel table able to accommodate what is left of 6 nutguards. As seen in this image:
   Read more