Seeing Monitor’s Steam Engine

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Last week I took a few minutes to visit the Conservation wet lab to visit Monitor‘s main engine, the first time I had seen it with the tank drained.

Before I say anything about this experience, I ought to say that I love steam engines, have loved them ever since I was a child.  Like so much nineteenth century technology, the steam engine seemed to me  imaginative, almost pre-scientific (though based on sound science).  I don’t know a thing about steam engines, honestly, but I love them because I find them beautiful.  Their movements are graceful, their lines and curves are elegant.  Their great exposed connecting rods, intricate gearing, the eliptical shapes of the eccentrics, have something of the animate about them.  In the extravagence of their movement, they seem improbable as machines, so unlike the completely restrained electrical motor.  One can be devoted to them easily.   Read more

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