“In the Land of Submarines”: Moving Nishimura 3746

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The sub has been in outdoor storage for several decades. Mariners’ Museum # 1946.0002.000001. Courtesy of: Amanda Shields/The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

We can handle a lot of heavy lifting with our staff, but sometimes we need to call on outside experts for help. Such was the case with No. 3746, a Japanese mini-submarine designed by Nishimura Ishimatsu. We needed to lift the sub onto a custom cradle and relocate it. Often this is a simple task with objects in the Museum’s Collection; however, due to the sub’s size (35 feet long and 20 tons), there was no way we could do this in-house.

This “simple” task was actually the culmination of several years’ worth of planning and only possible due to many people’s support.  The Museum’s Bronze Door Society approved the funding of a custom cradle for the submarine during their 2019 annual dinner.  The cradle would fully support the hull and make it easier to move the sub. We could also conserve and display the submarine in its new support. Hannah, our archaeologist, shared with the Society why the sub is so special and the need for a new support. You can learn more about the history of the sub and the start of the project in our past “In the Land of Submarines” series posts; historyassessing; and documenting.   Read more

USS Monitor: Oil Reservoirs

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Image source: https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/Steam_Engine_Research/Lubrication

What’s an Oil Reservoir?

Oil reservoirs are a tool commonly found on USS Monitor‘s engine. Also known as an oil cup or lubricating cup, they were used on steam engines to keep valves and levers constantly lubricated. The diagram below shows how they directly screwed into valve joins. 

 While there were many ways to oil engine parts, the kind we have found on Monitor are the “wick feed” variety (top left corner). The oil soaks the wick and slowly but continuously drips oil into the valve joins.    Read more

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