Coal is cool: archaeological implications of Monitor’s cannon boring project

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The archaeological conservators boring one of the two Dahlgren guns. 

The Conservation team recently bored USS Monitor’s 2 XI-inch Dahlgren cannons. This was a huge step in the objects’ treatment. It came from a need, but also required the right expertise, a TON of planning, donor funding, and specially crafted parts to make it happen. This task was completed for absolutely no archaeological reason. It needed to happen to conserve the artifacts and, therefore, it happened, but that doesn’t mean that archaeological interpretation didn’t benefit from the project.

So, here is my tale of why coal is cool…

To accomplish “archaeological investigation” of the concretions which came out of the guns’ bores, we set up a screening station at which the screeners – me, and the poor fools I tricked into helping me (our CEO Howard, our intern Christy, and our volunteer Heidi) – broke up the concretion into smaller bits of concretion until it fit through the screen and we could say with fair certainty that there were no artifacts left inside. This is a standard archaeological practice called sifting. What is maybe unique about our situation, is that since everything belongs to NOAA, we don’t get rid of the dirt and rock after its sifted, we bury it and save it in case there are techniques that it will be useful for in the future. No, I won’t tell you where we bury it. Actually, even I don’t know where, so I couldn’t tell you if I wanted to.   Read more

Using Art Reproductions to Create a Home

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Vessel rushing through the water against a pink and yellow sky.
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Do you love bold home decor? How about oversized works of art because they can draw focus in your room? Maybe you found they are an excellent way to showcase your personality. Perhaps, you have always wanted to have a gallery wall along your hallway or traveling up the walls of your staircase. Then you know that the choice of artwork placed there should be specific and well planned.

The Dilemma

Making a home sometimes starts in college. I remember my first week on campus; vendors were selling 20” x 30” movie and music posters to help students inject some needed personality into their cookie cutter dorm rooms. For others, it may happen when you decorate your first apartment. You may have purchased your first “art” from Ikea because they sold affordable large-scale art reproductions and inexpensive frames. However, your friends in the same financial situation purchased their framed art from there too. So now your living rooms match because there were not enough unique designs available at the Big Blue box store for everyone.   Read more

New challenges in photomodeling

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Eagle Stern Carving, front

You know how some days/weeks just do not go the way you thought they were going to? New things pop up, projects that need immediate attention come to the forefront, and the plans you had change. Last week was that way for me, but in the absolute best way!

After a presentation that caught her eye at the recent American Institute of Conservation (AIC) Conference, Paige, the Museum’s Assistant Objects Conservator, approached me with a photo modeling project unlike anything I’ve previously attempted. She is working on a beautiful eagle stern board carving that will soon be going out on loan. To better photo-document the piece, Paige wanted to create an overview shot of the back of the board. Not so complicated, right?   Read more

And we’re off. . .

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Hannah taking the photos she needs to create the 3D model.

Our spring/summer season is off to a busy start. The week before going into the engine tank, we were in the condenser tank. No cleaning or disassembly took place. This draining was to perform maintenance and examine the artifact. We removed and scrubbed the anode and changed the reference electrodes. The condenser itself is in great shape. See photos below. It is now happily back under electrolytic reduction in a brand new sodium hydroxide solution.

Hannah took a ton of photos and using photogrammetry software was able to create a 3D model of the condenser. It looks fantastic. You can check it out here.   Read more

Photographs of the Photographers

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Sergeant Joseph Shere photographing three Navy photographers
Sergeant Joseph Shere photographing three Navy photographers

As we work through the HRPE collection, we see many images of the same subject matter – ships, stacks of crates, military vehicles, etc. – so it is always a pleasant surprise when we come across photos of something different. I recently cataloged a few photographs that show a little behind-the-scenes view of the photographers themselves.

While our collection of HRPE photos were taken by the Army Signal Corps photographers, the Navy had their own dedicated photographers. The first image shows Sergeant Joseph Shere of the Army photographing a Navy crew while Captain William R. Wheeler, the Port Historian, takes notes.   Read more