Dahlgren Gun Tools: an In-Depth Look at Treatment, Part III

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Gun tool after salts have been removed and after chemical cleaning

In this blog post we’ll continue the discussion about one of USS Monitor’s gun cleaning tools, and the conservation treatment it has undergone.

Review

In Part I, I discussed the purpose of the gun tool and how the treatment plan for the gun tool was developed. Part II delved into what steps were taken to preserve the textile found on the iron handle. I also touched on the importance of removing salts from marine archaeological objects and how the desalination process was adjusted for a composite organic & inorganic object. Finally, I explained how we stabilize waterlogged wood in conservation.   Read more

Make a little birdhouse in your….tank farm?

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Photo of an Eastern Blue Bird in The Mariners’ Park. Photo courtesy of Rand Milam/The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

We’ve had our fair share of animal interactions in the Conservation Lab. With the Park surrounding the Museum, and the tank farm (outdoor tanks for storing large objects) so close to the woods, we expect to get the occasional turtle, goose, or squirrel coming to inspect our work. What we didn’t expect was to have a several-year-long battle with….bluebirds.

For anyone who doesn’t know, bluebirds are small, brightly colored birds that nest in tall trees, and have 2-4 broods (times they lay their eggs) each summer. My stepmom loves bluebirds and sets up a birdhouse for a bluebird family in the backyard every year, so I’m always keeping an eye out for these feathered friends.   Read more

Dahlgren Gun Tools: an In-Depth Look at Treatment, Part II

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Image of gun tool before treatment.

In this blog post we’ll continue the discussion about one of USS Monitor’s gun cleaning tools, and the conservation treatment it has undergone.

Review

In Part I, I discussed the purpose of the gun tool. I also showed how the way the gun tool was constructed made it impossible for me to disassemble the tool and treat the metal and wooden parts separately. This meant I was going to have to think outside the normal conservation treatment box and treat the wood and metal parts together. I also mentioned that I found textile wrapped around the iron handle and that I’d have to take extra steps to ensure it was preserved through treatment.    Read more

Dahlgren Gun Tools: an In-Depth Look at Treatment, Part I

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Image of USS Monitor’s Port Dahlgren gun. Photo courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park

Cannon Tools

You’re probably familiar already with USS Monitor’s Dahlgren guns. They are a key part of the history of Monitor, and we have completed some significant conservation steps to finishing treatment on the Dahlgrens recently. What you are likely less familiar with are the tools that were used to maintain the Dahlgren guns while they were used on USS Monitor

In the image above you’ll see illustrations of several historic cannon cleaning and loading tools. 1) The sponge would be dipped in water, and run down the barrel of the cannon to extinguish sparks in the bore after firing. 2) The worm cleaned unburned fragments of cloth powder bags from the bore. 3) Ladles were originally used to load powder, but after cartridge bags came into use, they were used to extract loads from the muzzle. 4) The rammer sealed cartridge and ball in place in the barrel. 5) The scraper and searchers were used to clean the gun. 6) The handspike helped to move the gun carriage and to adjust the gun’s elevation.  (From Albert Manucy, Artillery Through the Ages (Government Printing Office, 1949). All of these tools would be used to maintain the Dahlgren guns on Monitor and generally used each time the cannon was fired.    Read more

New Year, New Project: USS Monitor’s rope

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This piece I worked on in 2019 has a splice in it forming two loops. Features like this may help us understand more about its purpose.

What’s your New Year’s resolution? I’m not great about setting personal resolutions, but we do have one for USS Monitor; 2021 is the year of rope! This year the archaeological conservators are working together, separately, to finish all of the rope fragments in our walk-in fridge.

Normally our yearly work plan focuses on the larger items which require multiple people. We then fill in our extra time with smaller artifacts. Because of social distancing and limiting people in the lab space, this project is a great alternative. The four of us will work together on our own time to treat the remaining 90 accessioned rope pieces. Not only will this free up space in our cold storage area, but it means that an entire material type will be treated and available for research.   Read more