A Coat, Colleague, and Call for Preservation

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Matthew Eng, our good friend and colleague from the Naval Historical Foundation in Washington, D.C., recently visited the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum. He was in town for the 10th Maritime Heritage Conference’s reception and we sneaked him inside the lab for an advanced viewing of one our most cherished artifacts.

As always, Matt’s writing encapsulates the heart and soul of what happens in the USS Monitor conservation lab and clearly demonstrates why preserving our collective maritime heritage is so important to the nation. Check out his story and pictures here:   Read more

A Quest for Identity

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Facial reconstructions generated by LSU’s FACES Lab from the remains of two sailors recovered from USS Monitor’s gun turret.

The Mariners’ Museum and NOAA have a strong, ongoing desire to positively identify two sets of human remains recovered from Monitor‘s gun turret in 2002. Experts have documented and studied the remains, extracted viable DNA for comparison with modern samples, and attempted to verify the sailors’ identities. Unfortunately no matches have been found to date. With all information gathered and stored for future use, the remains were buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on March 8, 2013.

Lack of positive identification hasn’t stopped Mariners’ and NOAA staff and the general public from trying to learn more about Monitor‘s sailors. Prior to burial of the remains, experts at LSU’s FACES Lab reconstructed both sailors’ faces using scientific and artistic methods. LSU staff believe their reconstructions have a strong resemblance to the original sailors, and they have had an over 90% success rate in identifying modern remains based upon their facial reconstructions. So we can state with some confidence that LSU’s facial reconstructions of USS Monitor sailors have a likeness to the original men who gave their lives on December 31, 1862.   Read more

This Week in the Lab

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It occurred to me that most of our recent posts have been about exciting individual events, and while these are very interesting perhaps you would also like to hear about day-to-day adventures in the lab. However, as I have said before, there really is no such thing as a ‘normal’ day at the Monitor Center. So let me tell you about my week:

Currently I am working on cleaning the wooden components of a block, which would have been part of a pulley system. This particular block came out of the turret and may have been used as part of the system to maneuver the guns. So I spent all day Monday using the ultrasonic cleaner, much like the one in your dentist’s office, to remove the concretion from these pieces of wood.   Read more

It’s a spoon

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Christmas came early to the Monitor Center this year. We were recently able to purchase a refurbished Bruker Tracer III-SD portable XRF (x-ray fluorescence). We have been able to borrow one of these devices from Bruker in the past, and it is a fabulous piece of analytical equipment. You may remember that we talked about using one on the condenser tank a few months ago. Through non-destructive testing, which conservators are a big fan of, this machine will tell you the elements present in your sample, or in our case, artifact. There are some limitations, but it works really well with identifying metals. I had the chance to use the XRF less than a week after its arrival in the lab for just this purpose on a spoon I am currently treating.

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National Treasure

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As concretion removal on the turret has continued, a host of new finds have been discovered!!! The focus of concretion removal has shifted around a bit during the last several weeks (look at previous blog posts). We began work with the documentation and removal of the roof stanchions, which then moved to the excavation of concretion between the roof rails and beams, and currently to the removal of corrosion and concretion in and around the nutguards.

The following images show the variety of discoveries we found during the excavations.   Read more