Steaming Ahead!

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We are wrapping up our second week of deconcretion in the engine tank.  It was a particulary exciting week because we continued to expose more original surfaces of the engine.   This may sound silly, but the engine is starting to look more like an engine!  In addition to deconcretion, we also began planning for our electrolytic reduction setup and had interesting discussions about how to best disassemble the egnine into its component parts for more effective treatment. 

  The local media caught a whiff of our exciting work and started flocking to the museum.  Mark St. John Erickson ran a great story in the Daily Press (,0,2101784.story).  It includes photographs and a video filmed inside the engine tank.  A reporter from WAVY TV 10 dropped by and filmed conservators in action this morning.  The footage should air later tonight and tomorrow.  The Virginian-Pilot is also sending a reporter to the lab on Monday.  Keep your eyes and ears peeled for news updates.   Read more

What About the Other Artifacts?

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Of the approximately 1600 artifacts recovered from the USS Monitor, 1/4 of them have been conserved.  Many but not all of the 400+ conserved artifacts are now on display in the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum.  So what do we do with the artifacts that aren’t currently on display at the museum?  The museum must safely store these artifacts under precise temperature and humidity controls in order to guarantee their long term stability while awaiting exhibition. 

The following pictures show one of the many climate-controlled artifact storage areas at The Mariners’ Museum.  This specific location houses many Monitor artifacts that aren’t currently on display.    Read more

Nutguard Part 2

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The nutguard discussed a few weeks ago has now been removed from its desalination bath. It was dried under a fan overnight then coated with a tannic acid solution to stabilize the surface. It was necessary to carefully scrape away numerous large flakes of rust from all over the surfaces of the object before the tannic acid could work.  As the flakes came away bright metal was visible. The entire surface had an even black color once the tannic acid had been applied. A coat of acrylic lacquer was applied to give it some moisture protection and the object was photographed and placed on a padded mount for long term storage.

The most delicate part of the treatment was preserving a large iron fragment connected to the edge of the nutguard by just a tiny ribbon of metal. A cloth band on the storage mount secures it to prevent it from moving.   Read more

Large Scale Conservation – Part 1

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Hey folks, Josiah here.  I’m relatively new to the Monitor Conservation Project, on a yearlong fellowship to help with all of the work to be done here and to learn about marine archaeological conservation as I go along. One of the most interesting things that I am learning from working here is the logistics of large scale conservation work. The majority of work in the conservation field tends to deal with relatively small objects, papers, paintings, etc. Often they are things that can fit on a workbench or easel and require a lot of fine detail work. Sometimes a larger sculpture or painting comes through the lab and requires a bit of planning, equipment, jigs, and improvisation to perform the necessary work. Other projects such as large outdoor sculpture are too big, or too permanent to bring into the lab, and require the conservator to move his “lab”, including scaffolding and ladders as well as the usual equipment, out to the object. The work on the Monitor is a bit different from either of those situations. It is a huge project involving both huge artifacts, and thousands of smaller artifacts, and all of it has to come to the lab. A project like this requires massive planning and investment in logistics, equipment, and support before any treatment of objects can even begin. The recovery effort to bring these objects up from the bottom of the ocean was a pretty incredible undertaking in itself, but it was long before my time here so I’m going to write mostly about the logistics of the lab and the ongoing work of treatment.

Stay tuned for Part 2!