Just in time for Battle of Hampton Roads weekend, 10 newly conserved artifacts are now on display at the USS Monitor Center, helping to tell the story of the Monitor and the CSS Virginia.
Visitors to the Monitor Center are now greeted by the muzzle of a IX-inch Dahlgren shell gun which was used on board the Virginia on March 8th, the first day of the Battle of Hampton Roads. A shot fired by the USS Cumberland damaged its muzzle and the gun was retired and later captured by the Union Navy as ‘Trophy No. 1’ This gun with its beautiful commemorative inscription is on loan to The Mariners’ Museum from the US Navy and has recently been cleaned and conserved. During the process, Will found a number of historic ‘graffitti’ inscriptions not previously visible.
The Monitor’s clock movement was in amazingly good condition after 139 years in saltwater, due to many of the parts being made of high quality brass and copper nickel alloys.
The use of nickel in some of the components was verified by elemental analysis performed at the College of William and Mary materials characterization laboratory at the Jefferson Laboratories Applied Research Center in Newport News. This analysis provided valuable guidance in selecting the most appropriate conservation treatment for these parts. The delicate springs, screws, and gear shafts (called arbors) made of steel did not fare so well, however, and had completely rusted away apart from a few preserved remnants of the main spring.
The USS Monitor’s engine room clock will be exhibited in a new display beginning March 5th 2010 at The Mariners’ Museum’s USS Monitor Center. Although the sturdy brass case and silvered face of Monitor’s engine room clock went on display with the opening of the USS Monitor Center in 2007, the mechanical heart of the clock, its movement, required more time in conservation treatment due to its complex nature and numerous small parts.