And now for something completely different

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Mike, Lesley and Kate hard at work in the turret.
Mike, Lesley, and Kate hard at work in the turret.

Last week I was fortunate to attend and present at the ICOM-CC WOAM 2016 Triennial Conference. ICOM-CC is the International Council of Museums Committee for Conservation, and WOAM is a working group which specializes in Wet Organic Archaeological Materials. Yes, this exists! This week long conference is only held once every three years and attracts conservators, conservation scientists, and chemists from all over the globe. I presented on research being undertaken here at The Mariners’ Museum into the use of sodium nitrite as a corrosion inhibitor in treatment solutions for waterlogged wooden artifacts that also have iron components. Part of this research will be included in the October Civil War Lecture on treating composite artifacts and why they are tricky to conserve. The presentations given at the conference ranged in topic from the in-situ preservation of shipwrecks, to improved freeze-drying techniques, to the preservation of 7th century apples. It was a fascinating week and I returned to The Mariners’ Museum enlightened and inspired! This was a great opportunity to talk about the USS Monitor conservation project on an international stage.

This week we have been working away in the turret, deconcreting nutguards. More on that next week. Stay tuned!   Read more

The moment you’ve all been waiting for. . .

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Refilling the turret tank after a week of work.
Refilling the turret tank after a week of work.

We’ve had an exciting week here at the lab. The moment we’ve all been waiting for all year has finally arrived; it’s turret season. From now until the middle of July the turret tank will be drained on a weekly basis. We will be draining it on Monday and refilling it each Friday.

This week after draining the turret tank, we completely removed the old electrolysis system. At the end of the season we will be installing a new system that will provide more coverage of the object and therefore be more efficient. This week we did a condition assessment of the turret and took photos for documentation. We’re planning on doing a lot of cleaning of both the inside and the outside of the turret this season. Cleaning will be done mechanically, using dental tools and air scribes, which are tiny pencil-sized jackhammers that run off compressed air. On the inside, we will focus our efforts around the nutguards in an attempt to remove as many of them as possible. The nutguards are metal shields that prevented the nuts attached to the bolts, holding the turret together, from ricocheting inside the turret in the event of it being struck by cannon fire. Removing them will reveal more of the turret walls and allow more salts to be extracted from the turret in the future.   Read more

Time is… corrosion

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MNMS-2002-01-762 BT2 copy

Hello there readers! It is such a pleasure to be back at work on the USS Monitor. I have missed smelling like a 150 year old ship at the end of a work day and using a crane to move artifacts around… really.

As Kate mentioned last week, we’ve been working on the wooden side of the port carriage for the past month or so. There will be more updates about the gun carriages as we progress with treatment.   Read more

120-ton Wrought Iron Beauty

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Monitor Turret out of alkaline solution
USS Monitor‘s revolving gun turret, July 27, 2015, as viewed from a work platform inside the conservation lab. Image courtesy of Jonathon Gruenke, Daily Press

Good morning to all our readers. We’ve been very busy in the Batten Conservation Complex inside the USS Monitor Center over the past few weeks preparing to drain USS Monitor‘s 90,000-gallon revolving gun turret treatment tank for assessment.

Well guess what? The tank is now drained and Monitor‘s gun turret is visible in the open air for the first time in over three years. The excitement in the lab is palpable, and we have an ambitious two-week (July 27 – August 7) work window within the lab.   Read more

Powerful New Evidence Against Anthracite Coal

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Coal 1

USS Monitor‘s engines were powered by steam generated by boiling water. Water was boiled by burning massive quantities of anthracite coal. Tons and tons of anthracite coal. Even when Monitor was under tow by the Rhode Island during her last hours afloat, coal was the driving force behind the movement of both vessels. Here is a picture of a small piece of anthracite coal excavated from the interior of Monitor‘s gun turret in 2002.

Original letters penned by crew members of Monitor and modern-day books describe loads of coal as fuel. Archaeologists confirmed this information with their discoveries of coal at the wreck site within the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. But have archivists, historians, and archaeologists led us astray?   Read more