This is our 100th post, and it’s an important one! The Virginia Collections Initiative in conjunction with the Virginia Association of Museums is once again generating its list of “Virginia’s Top Ten Endangered Artifacts”.
After the removal of remaining roof stanchions on the turret (see previous post below), conservation staff shifted their work efforts to its interior. Over the last several weeks we have been using an assortment of pneumatic and other hand tools to remove remaining concretion and loose corrosion products embedded in between the roof rails and on the main roof support beams. The following link is a video put together by The Daily Press, which provides a good overview of the work.
The Mariners’ Museum and Monitor Conservation Project were fortunate to attract the attention of John Tierney and the New York Times. John visited the museum on two recent occasions and published an article about the Monitor in the NY Times on August 8.
The article coincides with the 150th anniversary of the publication (in the NY Times and other papers) of the Union Navy’s call for “Iron-Clad Steam Vessels” on August 9, 1861. Check it out his great article here:
It was Friday afternoon and Conservator Elsa Sangouard did not say a word; she didn’t have to say anything. Her smile told the whole story. Elsa and Gary Paden, the Objects Handler for the USS Monitor Conservation Project, had just successfully removed a beautiful and shiny copper alloy tallow cup from Monitor’s 25-ton steam engine when I walked into the engine treatment tank. They held the multi-component artifact with pride and examined it closely. It had the appearance of something Dr. Seuss would have invented. Two valve handles of different sizes extended from the smooth, round tallow reservoirs. A smaller drain spigot with a stout nozzle extended from one of the reservoirs. It looked ornate and stout, fantastical and practical. Engineers heated tallow or pig fat in these devices. The liquid fat would then drip into the steam engine’s valve chests, providing critical lubrication. Surprisingly, Elsa was able to turn one of the valve handles as if it the object was new. Smiles grew wider on their sweaty and sediment-covered faces.
They passed the tallow cup to me and I placed it in a plastic container filled with deionized water for safe storage and desalination on a workbench outside of the engine treatment tank. I labeled the container and lined it up with a dozen similar containers filled with other copper alloy engine components removed during the week. Conservation Technician Mike Saul walked up to the table with a clipboard and began documenting the condition of each engine component for entry into the artifact database and individual artifact treatment files. We stared at an amazing assortment of ten oil cups of various sizes removed from the engine’s rock shaft bearings and eccentric arms. A small drop of oil bubbled to the surface of the water in one container. “That’s original engine oil from the night the Monitor sank,” I said. Mike hustled off to grab a glass sample vial so we could collect the oil for later analysis.