Plastics in Our Collections: Chapter 1

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Collecting latex from a tree
© User:Iamshibukc / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Plastics Age

History is filled with ages that are tied to the innovation of materials:  The Stone Age, The Bronze Age, and The Iron Age. We are currently in The Plastics Age. Plastics have changed so much in our daily lives. Plastics are around us all the time.  They are in every electrical thing in our houses, in the clothes that we wear, in our furniture and the packaging of our food.

This means that as caretakers of historic objects, museums have to consider how long plastic materials will last in our collections. We focus on what we have to do and learn in order to care for plastic objects. We also study plastics in order to store them in ways that better ensure their survival. This is a complicated thing.  Plastics are not simple materials, and what works for one may damage another.  Some plastics have been around longer than others, so we know more about them. We can see how they’ve aged. For other plastics, we can guess at how they will survive (or not) based on their behaviors and chemistries, while still others are a gigantic question mark.   Read more

A Lion by Any Other Color. . .

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The conservation team in front of the Southwest Lion during cleaning. Left to Right: Assistant Objects Conservator Paige Schmidt, USS Monitor Collections Manager Mike Saul, Assistant Conservator Laurie King, Archaeological Conservator Erik Farrell, and Volunteer Conservator Arianna DiMucci. Image Credit: The Mariners’ Museum and Park, photographer: Crystal R. Hines

If you’ve visited our Lions Bridge over the last couple of weeks, you may have seen our signature Lions turning shades of red and orange.  Never Fear! Nothing is wrong.  Rather, the conservation team is giving our Lions a ‘grooming.’

These cleaning sessions are done to maintain the longevity of our Lions.  Biological growth and air pollution on the limestone sculptures and granite bases will damage them over time.   Read more

World Water Day – Monitoring the Water Quality of Lake Maury

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Happy World Water Day!

This is an especially important day for all of us at The Mariners’ Museum and Park.  Our mission is to connect people to the world’s waters, and through those waters, to each other.

On a day dedicated to the sustainable use of water, we thought we would talk about our efforts to monitor and conserve our waterway, Lake Maury.

Our Lake collects storm water from the city.  Because of this, the health of the Lake and the life it supports can change quickly due to circumstances outside of the Museum and Park’s control.   Read more

I-Arghhhh: The Use of an Infrared (IR) Camera in Conservation

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Valentine viewed by the camera in ‘visible’ light (light our eyes can detect). (Image credit: The Mariners’ Museum and Park)

Last month, Dr. Molly McGath and I unveiled conservation’s infrared camera to the public during the ‘Be My Mariner’ event. Visitors created Valentines for their special someones, and included a ‘secret’ message that only our IR camera could reveal.

The event was a lot of fun, and it was great to see all of the creative and clever ideas kids (and their parents!) came up with for their Valentines.   Read more

The Bronze Door Society Saves the Day!

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It was going so well, until it wasn’t. . .

It was a crisp winter morning, the year newly minted as it was only January 2nd.  I had just finished preparing all of our samples to run on our old, but usually reliable, ion chromatography (IC) unit.  (Aside: The IC is vital in measuring when the desalination treatments of USS Monitor objects are complete.)

Our IC unit ran out of preventive maintenance coverage (read warranty) as of January 1st.  The IC is so old that parts are hard to find and we couldn’t buy a new preventive maintenance policy on it.  Our IC was balancing on the precipice of obsolescence and inactivity.   Read more