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

Mystery Object

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Mystery object’s x-ray

Hi all,

Among other endeavors, a mystery object was found within our collection. It is a lengthy, semi-oblong shaped concretion, excavated in 2001 in proximity to the engine room of the Monitor. It has been stored dried for a while, and a recent look at it showed that at least four straps of leather were intertwined within the hard mixture of corrosion products and calcite. In addition to the leather, a couple copper alloy ornate buttons were also identified. A few X-rays were performed in-house last week to attempt a better identification of the object. Unfortunately the thickness of the concretion did not allow for a very clear image. See for yourself:   Read more

Adventures in Archaeology

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This past weekend, a few of us from the Monitor Lab got to go on a grand adventure to learn about one of our favorite topics, archaeology! (Conservation of course will always be number one in my heart, but archaeology runs a close second) The Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference(MAAC) was hosted this year in Virginia Beach, and not only were we able to attend, but we were accepted to present in the conference as well.

MAAC kindly allowed staff from the Monitor Lab and some of our colleagues from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab, to form a session specifically on Archaeological Conservation. The lectures ranged from the conservation of archaeological objects, to explaining some of the science behind conservation. Kate talked about some of the many makers marks discoveries made through conservation. And below is an images of Hannah, discussing how technology can be used to bring both conservation and archaeology to the public!   Read more