Discovery in the lab!

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I believe it has been said before on this blog and I have no doubt that it will be said again. Conservation is not a career for those who desire instant gratification in the work place. Treatment times tend to be long, especially for marine archaeological material where desalination is perhaps the most important process. That being said, every now and then there are days where discovery and success happen in an instant. Last week I was lucky enough to have one of those days.

I’m currently working on a copper alloy bicock valve that was removed from the front of the condenser.   Read more

Some special events from last week

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Well, we may be done in the tank farm but that doesn’t mean that life around the lab has slowed at all. We are now back to working on individual projects. There were, however a couple of special events last week.

Rich Carlstedt came to visit and brought along his model of the Monitor’s main steam engine. This incredible model was built to a 1/16th scale and we believe it to be the most accurate model of the engine in existence. Rich probably knows more about the engine than any man alive and was happy to share this knowledge with us during a special guest lecture. He also ran the model for us, a fascinating thing to see. If you would like to see what the Monitor’s main engine would have looked like while in action, you should go and check out this YouTube video.   Read more

News from the Tank Farm

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Turret stanchions waiting for their turned to be cleaned.

Work has been progressing nicely out in the Tank Farm. After a week in Tank 1 with the copper alloy artifacts, we refilled the tank with fresh solution, covered it back up with a tarp and moved into Tank 6. Tank 6 and 5 (which we were into this week) hold wrought iron artifacts. They all received a through cleaned via dry ice blasting, which is rapidly becoming one of my new favorite things.

One of the most exciting things about dry ice blasting these artifacts is that removing concretion often reveals previously hidden features. This has been the case for two artifacts in the last two weeks. The first was one of the stanchions off of the turret.   Read more

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, into the tanks we go. . .

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Out in the tank farm deconcreting copper alloy objects.
Out in the tank farm deconcreting copper alloy objects.

This week the time had come to get back into some of our larger tanks, and so tank farm season began. We were last out in the tank farm in the summer of 2014, how time flies! This summer we will be dry ice blasting all of the wrought iron artifacts that live in tank farm.

We spent this week in Tank 1, which holds copper alloy artifacts. All of the copper alloy objects, mostly pipes, were taken out the tank, examined, weighed (this helps with desalination calculations), given a brief round of flame deconcretion. By the end of week all the artifacts were back in the tank, snug as a bug in a rug, and with a freshly prepared solution.   Read more

We need your help!

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Interior of the USS Monitor's turret showing the gun carriages in situ.
Interior of the USS Monitor’s turret showing the gun carriages in situ.

The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) is running their Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program again this year. We have nominated the Dahlgren gun carriages. We’ve written quite a bit about the treatment of these composite artifacts in the past (see this post, this post and this postamong others). Being composed of wood, iron, and copper alloy parts renders them one of the most complex objects to conserve in the USS Monitor collection. All of these materials require individual incompatible treatments causing conservators headaches to develop new strategies for their care. Now we need your help to get them onto the top ten Endangered Artifacts list that will promote our conservation efforts. Please go vote at The public is invited to cast their votes from August 1 to 31. VAM will announce the honorees on September 27th.

We’ll be back with more conservation adventures soon. Now, go vote!   Read more