These Doors Do Heavy Metal!

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The Bronze Doors and a shipyard car and chauffeur, Mr. Fisher. The shipyard ran this car every morning and evening to the Museum and hydraulic lab to carry mail, lab, information, and passengers, July 1939. Image Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

Have you ever noticed the big metal doors at the Business Entrance of The Mariners’ Museum and Park? Have you ever thought that maybe they were a little fancy for an entrance where deliveries are made and staff enters to gather our badges and trek to wherever our offices happen to be on-site? Well, those doors, made of bronze, are actually part of our Collection and used to be the Main Entrance to the Museum!

There is a bit of a story behind them. As you have probably read in a previous blog, Archer M. Huntington was the driving force behind the construction of The Mariners’ Museum and Park. It was his vision to have a stunning entrance to the Museum, something that would visually make people stop and say “WOW!”. Incidentally, this is why the original portion of the Museum has the very unusual “Huntington Squeeze” brick and mortar technique. It’s done by not scraping off the mortar as layers of bricks are added in the wall construction.   Read more

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

Oaktoberfest (Sort of…) and a Toast

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MNMS-2002-001-469BD35 BT1
Gary with his hard-earned trophy.

A few years ago, one of our former conservators Elsa posted about the successful effort to disassemble the port gun carriage excavated from inside USS Monitor‘s gun turret. And last summer, Kate added a post about long-term efforts to stabilize the wooden internal components from the carriage.

One of my favorite pictures from the earlier posts shows former staff guru Gary hoisting an oak gun carriage side from the Wet Lab’s overhead crane for documentation and photography. Here it is in case you missed it:   Read more

Wood and metal meet science

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It generally goes without saying that we have a lot of metal artifacts to treat here at the Monitor Center. The term ‘ironclad’ does not exactly lend itself to images of wood or rope, but our collection of organic objects is not insubstantial. Thursdays have been devoted to survey of the organic objects in the walk-in refrigerator for the last couple of months, with a few breaks for other activities. This week we were doing something a little different, but still organic related. Some of you may recall that awhile ago one of the gun carriages was dissembled. The wooden sides still need to have their long iron bolts removed, an activity we hope to undertake soon, but for now those beautiful oak pieces are living in tanks with water, a corrosion inhibitor, and a biocide. The corrosion inhibitor helps to keep the iron bolts from corroding away until we can remove them, and the biocide prevents new ecosystems from growing in the lab. In addition to the corrosion inhibitor we are also using galvanic protection to prevent the iron bolts from corroding. The bolts are hooked up to magnesium blocks with electrical wire. Magnesium is less “noble” than iron in a galvanic series, which means that when it is connected to iron, magnesium will corrode faster than if it were unconnected. The other side of this is that the iron will corrode more slowly than if it were unconnected. So the magnesium will corrode into nothingness and the iron stays reasonably intact. The catch is that you periodically have to put in new magnesium blocks, an item we sometimes have difficultly tracking down. If anyone out there knows of a good source for magnesium blocks, please leave a comment or drop us an email.

So, as some of you may have gathered, Thursday was spent changing the solutions in these tanks and wiring in new magnesium blocks. Be sure to check back to the blog soon as we are testing dry ice blasting as a cleaning method this week. Hopefully there will be excellent results to share around this time next week.   Read more

Into the Condenser Tank – Week 1

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Last week got off to a great start as we drained the condenser tank for the first time in two years. This was the second draining of a tank since I arrived at The Mariners’ Museum and I was looking forward to getting back into one of the “big” tanks.

After draining, rinsing, and disassembling the anode rig, it was time for during treatment photographs and a brief condition assessment. The time in electrolysis has been good for the condenser; all of the iron surfaces are black with no active corrosion in sight. Taking the during treatment photos was a bit tricky seeing as we were maneuvering around inside of a steel tank that still had four inches of water in the bottom and a trench along one side.  First rule of using electronics in the tank: whatever you do, don’t drop the equipment. The pictures turned out really well, as you can see in the images below. Keep in mind that the entire assemblage in upside down.   Read more