Back from the ICOM-CC triennial conference!

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Keynote speakers panel

Kate and I recently returned from the ICOM-CC triennial conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, and had such a great and productive week that we want to share ALL of it with you! Thus a rather lengthy post for you to enjoy.
First of all, what’s ICOM-CC you ask?! Well, ICOM-CC stands for International Council of Museums –Committee for Conservation. Remember when we went to Chicago in April? ICOM-CC is the international version of AIC (American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Work, i.e. the American conservation association).
ICOM’s activities are focused on the following themes:
– professional cooperation and exchange;
– dissemination of knowledge and raising public awareness of museums;
– training of personnel;
– advancement of professional standards;
– elaboration and promotion of professional ethics;
– preservation of heritage and combating the illicit traffic in cultural property.
You can find out more about ICOM here.

This triennial conference marked the 50th anniversary of ICOM-CC which evolved from two ICOM groups and about 100 members in 1967 to 21 groups and about 3000 members in 2017. This year’s meeting hosted approximately 1000 members from 58 countries! (Talk about being connected to one another!!)
Kate and I (and most of us here in the lab) are members of two of those 21 groups: the WOAM group (Wet Organic Archaeological Objects) and the Metals group.    Read more

A word from our summer intern, Kim

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Firing hammer from the starboard USS Monitor Dahlgren gun

Hi everyone!
My name is Kim, and I’m an intern at The Mariners’ Museum and Park in the Batten Conservation Complex this summer. I’m currently working towards my master’s degree in archaeological conservation at Cardiff University and am completing this internship as a requirement for my degree. My specialization is primarily focused on the conservation of marine archaeological artifacts. What better place than the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum and Park! For those of you who follow the blog, I am in good company in the lab with assistant conservators Leslie and Laurie, two other Cardiff grads. I’m looking forward to spending my summer in Newport News and working on Monitor artifacts!
I will be working on several projects this summer, including the continued treatment of a few Monitor artifacts: small iron artifacts (studs, nuts, keys) from the port cannon carriage, copper alloy hammer from the starboard cannon, wood handle, and a concreted flange. More information about these treatments will be presented in a public lecture in August.

In addition to these treatments, I will also work alongside the rest of the Monitor team on some of the large artifacts in the “Tank Farm” and the turret later this summer. My second week is coming to a close, and it’s been a busy couple of weeks already! I’ve been fortunate enough to help Elsa and Laurie in the Tank Farm the last two weeks, removing artifacts from the tank and dry ice blasting them before resuming electrolysis.    Read more

Back from Illinois

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From left to right: Lesley, me, Will, Laurie and Kate at the Art Institute of Chicago standing in front of a lovely Byzantine camel mosaic.

Good day everyone,
Monitor’s conservators are back from an AIC (American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works) conference held in Chicago last week!
Laurie and I each presented a poster during the conference. Laurie’s topic was “Guns and Ships, Using Dry Ice Blasting in the Conservation of Cast Iron”, where she developed her recent work with two revolutionary cannons from Yorktown. And the other poster title was “The USS Monitor Gun Carriages: Treatment Steps and Innovations for the Conservation of Complex Composite Artifacts”, in which the main steps needed for the conservation of the gun carriages were described. We had a lot of good feedback for both projects, and were able to make useful new contacts.
Besides poster presentations, the conference provided many specialists talks on very specialized topics… Whether it was painting conservation, paper conservation, preventive conservation or architecture, you name it, there was a whole panel of presentations about it! It was awesome.
We all had a blast and are ready to tackle our summer work schedule, energized after this invigorating conference! And here is a rare shot of Monitor’s conservators in clean, presentable, clothes.

Also, do not forget to visit us for only $1 all summer long!! We added a lot of programs in the gallery for the entire $1 museum’s admission time frame (from Memorial Day until Labor Day). Mike will be showing his artifact housing techniques once a week in the gallery, Hannah will share her latest 3D modeling fancy work, I will be discussing the wool coat treatment next to the brand new coat case, and John Quarstein will be giving many lectures. The whole team will be spending some public time on the platform facing the Wet Lab several set times a week! And that is just for the USS Monitor Center side of the museum’s greatness. There is so much more to see and experience throughout the whole institution, please take advantage of this awesome experience!!   Read more

Mystery object: part II

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Cross-section of the concretion showing stacked straps of leather.

Thanks to Riverside Regional Medical Center, our “mystery object” received a CT scan a few weeks ago!
We are so grateful for the help our health care neighbors provided with the project.
Also, thank you all for the many suggestions last month on what could be trapped within this concretion!
So… what did we find?!
A whole lot of precious information for conservation purposes!
First of all, the CT scan confirmed that any metallic material left within the concretion is fully mineralized, in other words, there is no more metal left, only metallic corrosion products.
Second, we now know that there is a LOT of leather left inside this concretion. The object is composed of many leather straps, sometimes up to 7 of them stacked on top of one another. See these pictures of cross sections of the concretion:

In the following picture, an o-ring can be seen from which at least two small straps depart (yellow arrow). On one of these straps, stiches can be seen (red arrows).
   Read more

Last week’s team effort on USS Monitor’s main engine

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The whole conservation team was busy doing some maintenance work on the USS Monitor main steam engine last week. It involved the following:
• draining the 20,000 gallons of solution, removing the stainless steel anodes and the reference electrodes
• performing a detailed conservation assessment of the engine
• thorough photo documentation of the current state of the artifact, and using these pictures to produce a 3D model of the engine
• cleaning the anodes and prepping new reference electrodes
• putting everything back in place and covering it all with a fresh caustic solution
We also were able to bring Museum staff members for a close-up view of this large object while the tank was drained. The perks of the job!
Below are a few pictures of the process for those of you who did not have a chance to check out our webcams or to come see us work live!

Now power is back on in the tank. The reference electrodes judiciously located around the engine will allow us to monitor the electrolytic reduction process in live time and to adjust the current if need be.

There is a Civil War Lecture this Saturday at 2pm: “Conserving Civil War Shipwreck: Research and Innovation”. It is free with museum admission. Come hear more about what we do behind the scenes!    Read more