Dahlgren Gun Tools: an In-Depth Look at Treatment, Part III

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Gun tool after salts have been removed and after chemical cleaning

In this blog post we’ll continue the discussion about one of USS Monitor’s gun cleaning tools, and the conservation treatment it has undergone.


In Part I, I discussed the purpose of the gun tool and how the treatment plan for the gun tool was developed. Part II delved into what steps were taken to preserve the textile found on the iron handle. I also touched on the importance of removing salts from marine archaeological objects and how the desalination process was adjusted for a composite organic & inorganic object. Finally, I explained how we stabilize waterlogged wood in conservation.   Read more

Make a little birdhouse in your….tank farm?

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Photo of an Eastern Blue Bird in The Mariners’ Park. Photo courtesy of Rand Milam/The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

We’ve had our fair share of animal interactions in the Conservation Lab. With the Park surrounding the Museum, and the tank farm (outdoor tanks for storing large objects) so close to the woods, we expect to get the occasional turtle, goose, or squirrel coming to inspect our work. What we didn’t expect was to have a several-year-long battle with….bluebirds.

For anyone who doesn’t know, bluebirds are small, brightly colored birds that nest in tall trees, and have 2-4 broods (times they lay their eggs) each summer. My stepmom loves bluebirds and sets up a birdhouse for a bluebird family in the backyard every year, so I’m always keeping an eye out for these feathered friends.   Read more

Dahlgren Gun Tools: an In-Depth Look at Treatment, Part II

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Image of gun tool before treatment.

In this blog post we’ll continue the discussion about one of USS Monitor’s gun cleaning tools, and the conservation treatment it has undergone.


In Part I, I discussed the purpose of the gun tool. I also showed how the way the gun tool was constructed made it impossible for me to disassemble the tool and treat the metal and wooden parts separately. This meant I was going to have to think outside the normal conservation treatment box and treat the wood and metal parts together. I also mentioned that I found textile wrapped around the iron handle and that I’d have to take extra steps to ensure it was preserved through treatment.    Read more

Dahlgren Gun Tools: an In-Depth Look at Treatment, Part I

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Image of USS Monitor’s Port Dahlgren gun. Photo courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park

Cannon Tools

You’re probably familiar already with USS Monitor’s Dahlgren guns. They are a key part of the history of Monitor, and we have completed some significant conservation steps to finishing treatment on the Dahlgrens recently. What you are likely less familiar with are the tools that were used to maintain the Dahlgren guns while they were used on USS Monitor

In the image above you’ll see illustrations of several historic cannon cleaning and loading tools. 1) The sponge would be dipped in water, and run down the barrel of the cannon to extinguish sparks in the bore after firing. 2) The worm cleaned unburned fragments of cloth powder bags from the bore. 3) Ladles were originally used to load powder, but after cartridge bags came into use, they were used to extract loads from the muzzle. 4) The rammer sealed cartridge and ball in place in the barrel. 5) The scraper and searchers were used to clean the gun. 6) The handspike helped to move the gun carriage and to adjust the gun’s elevation.  (From Albert Manucy, Artillery Through the Ages (Government Printing Office, 1949). All of these tools would be used to maintain the Dahlgren guns on Monitor and generally used each time the cannon was fired.    Read more

PRIDE of the WACs: Sex and Sexuality during WWII

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Officers and enlisted women of 3rd WAC Co. are shown in front of company area. Accession Number P0003/01-#F-10899

Changing Perspectives during WWII

As mentioned in some previous blogs, World War II was the first time in US history that women were allowed to officially enter the military in any major capacity, outside of Nursing. This change brought many white, middle-class women into the labor force for the first time and opened up opportunities to women and people of color in jobs that would otherwise be denied to them. The Women’s Army Corps or WAC (originally the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) was the only one of these groups to integrate women into its corresponding military branch fully. However, in the 1940s, there were much stricter ideas of gender norms, gender expression, and heteronormativity. This meant there was significant pushback against the idea of women joining the military, as this was viewed as the epitome of masculine spaces. As a result, many suggested that women did not belong in the military, despite many women joining the WAC (and other groups) and excelling in their new roles.

The Slander Campaign

There was a lot of concern about what women joining the military might mean. A slander campaign arose between 1943-1944, about 1-2 years after the forming of WAC/WAAC, which claimed that women who joined the WAC were either promiscuous or lesbians. These rumors were sourced from several places. One is a prominent newspaper article on the WACs claiming that WACs would receive free prophylactic equipment, just as the male GIs did. However, this was inherently false, one of the many double standards that women in the military were held to.    Read more