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

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

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

Featured: A Union Spy

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Happy Women’s History Month!

I realize that this is the last day of March and that makes this write-up a late celebration of the heritage month. But, to be completely honest, I really struggled with how I wanted to approach this blog. There are so many awesome women and deciding on one story to share was incredibly difficult.   Read more