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!

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German silverware

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After conservation treatment pictures of a spoon belonging to Samuel A. Lewis
After conservation treatment pictures of a spoon belonging to Samuel A. Lewis

This week was devoted to tours of the turret and we had outstanding visitors! Thank you all so much for your support!!

Lesley also completed the interior documentation of the nutguards before our attempt at separating them from the turret’s wall next week. There will be more blog updates on the topic in the near future.

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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.

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Dry Ice Blasting!

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Hello Everyone!  I know that lately the blog has been abounding with news about new additions to the conservation team, but prepare for a little Déjà vu, as I’m writing this post to introduce myself as the newest member. My name is Laurie King, and I joined the team at the beginning of April as an Assistant Conservator. My main focus will be researching techniques for using solid CO2 (or Dry Ice Blasting) to remove corrosion from USS Monitor objects. I am a recent graduate from Cardiff University, and prior to that I actually spent my free time as a conservation volunteer with the USS Monitor Center.  I am so thrilled to be back and to be working on the Monitor!

As long time readers will know, the removal of corrosion from metals can be a long process, involving a lot of detailed and time consuming work.  The removal of corrosion isn’t just so the object will look nice and to reveal surface details; if corrosion remains on the surface it can trap salts in the object and cause corrosion in the future! When it comes to USS Monitor objects, this corrosion can be inches thick in some areas, making it a very painstaking process to remove the corrosion with smaller tools, like scalpels, dental tools, or air scribes.  This is especially true when working on something as large as the turret or the gun carriages!

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