The USS Monitor Center Blog

Best Jigsaw Puzzle Ever

Summer work out in the tank farm continues. Last week we drained and began reorganizing Tank 2. The first objects we focused on were pieces of diamond plate cast iron flooring, which we believe came from the engine room. We spent part of an afternoon seeing how many of these pieces would have originally fit together. If we could determine this now, reassembly once conservation is complete will be much easier. We discovered we have nearly three full sections of diamond plate flooring that we will be able to reassemble.

Here you can see the pieces from three sections of diamond plate laid out in their original orientation.

Here you can see the pieces from three sections of diamond plate laid out in their original orientation.

Check back to the blog soon as we will have more updates as the summer progresses. Happy Independence Day!

Wooden Gun Carriage Sides

Some of you may remember that in the fall we spent some time doing maintenance on the wooden gun carriage sides from the disassembled gun carriage. Last week while Will was away at the annual AIC conference, Mike and I changed the solutions in these tanks, installed an anode and wired the carriage sides so that the iron bolts still inside the wood would be protected by impressed current. This is the same method being used to protect the metal components on the still assembled gun carriage, which can be viewed via the wet lab web cam here.

Newly constructed stainless steel mesh anode waiting to be installed.

Newly constructed stainless steel mesh anode waiting to be installed.

One of the wooden gun carriage sides before last week's maintenance.

One of the wooden gun carriage sides before last week’s maintenance.

Anode installed and everything wired in, just needs a new solution.

Anode installed and everything wired in, just needs a new solution.

Work completed on one gun carriage side.

Work completed on one gun carriage side.

Installation complete on both gun carriage sides.

Installation complete on both gun carriage sides.

Check back soon to see updates about ongoing work in the lab.

 

 

 

 

Great News!

We had some fabulous news here in the lab this week. Our former intern Jessica, who wrote the great post on archival box making, has just accepted a job as a museum technician at James Madison’s Montpelier. Congratulations Jessica. We are all so proud of you. Best of luck as you start this new adventure, you will be brilliant.

Copper, Corrosion, and Craftsmanship

These are some detailed photos of copper and copper alloy artifacts recovered from USS Monitor‘s engine room in 2001. We are currently mitigating the effects of corrosion. We continue to marvel at the amazing level of craftsmanship and detail that went into each object. These humble, industrial artifacts are works of art.

Rivets 2

Main Steam

Valve

Holes

Ragged

Rivets

Railing

Tweet Tweet!

In case you aren’t already aware, we have a Twitter handle @USSMonitorLab! Check us out. Why? Well, we are trying to share as much information as we can using a variety of formats.

 

Our newer Twitter handle (@USSMonitorLab) is the site for more frequent posts with quick snippets of news, pictures, and videos about our favorite Civil War ironclad as well as other tweets from the heritage preservation world.

 

The USS Monitor Center blog will continue to be a great source of detailed information about various artifacts, treatments, and fun projects happening inside the Batten Conservation Lab in the USS Monitor Center. But hit our Twitter account too!

2014 Civil War Lecture Series

If you happen to find yourself in Hampton Roads tomorrow (Saturday May 10), stop by The Mariners’ Museum for the May edition of the 2014 Civil War Lecture Series. Conservator Will Hoffman will be giving a presentation on a multi-year project to create a working replica of a bilge pumps from the USS Monitor. The presentation will take place in the newly renovated Explorers Theatre at 1 pm. The lecture is free with admission to the museum.

 

The partially completed Worthington pump replica.

The partially completed Worthington pump replica.

Archival Quality Box Making

From January to April 2014, during the temporary closure of our Wet Lab, we supported an intern in the Dry Lab at the Monitor Center from Christopher Newport University. Jessica was a great temporary addition to the team, full of enthusiasm for the history of USS Monitor and the artifacts we are conserving here. She wrote the following post about one of the primary activities she undertook during her internship.

Hello readers!  My name is Jessica and I’m an intern here in the USS Monitor Center.  I’m here this semester as part of one of my history classes at Christopher Newport University.  I help the conservators with a variety of tasks, but one of the most important things I do here is make archival-quality storage boxes.  Box making may sound easy, but I assure you, it is not.  Precision is key, as these boxes must securely hold and support a variety of artifacts.  Today, I will demonstrate the process with a box I made for a stanchion fragment which would have held up the canvas canopy atop the Monitor’s turret.

Stanchion piece awaiting rehousing.

Stanchion fragment awaiting rehousing.

Close up view of the stanchion fragment.

Close up view of the stanchion fragment.

To make a box, I first construct the bottom, or base of the box.  I use one rectangle sheet of cardboard and fold to create a box.  Even the glue used is archival quality, so that the artifacts will remain safely stored for years to come.  Once the bottom is dry, I make a lid for the box the same way so that it will fit snugly on the bottom.

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Shape of the base of the box drawn onto archival cardboard.

Folding the base of the box.

Folding the base of the box.

A snug fitting lid.

The lid is constructed the same way as the base.

A snug fitting lid.

A snug fitting lid.

After the box is complete, we use a foam material called closed-cell ethafoam to cradle whatever artifact is going inside, in this case, the stanchion fragment.  We cut the foam to fit inside the box, and then determine where to carve into the foam.  Most artifacts stored in these boxes are relatively sturdy, such as the stanchion fragment, but we want to give them as much support as possible as these boxes are long-term storage containers.  The artifacts need to sit in the foam, so that they are supported from beneath but also from the sides, and so that they do not move around inside the box.  Once the foam is carved to fit the object, we line it with a woven material called Tyvek.  This fabric lining not only creates a smooth surface for the artifact, but is also an inert material safe for close contact with the object.

Ethafoam with the artifact shape drawn on in preparation for carving.

Ethafoam with the artifact shape drawn on in preparation for carving.

Carved ethafoam.

Carved ethafoam.

 

Tyvek lining is visible between the ethafoam and the artifact.

Tyvek lining is visible between the ethafoam and the artifact.

 

Making these archival storage boxes may not seem like a very exciting task, but proper storage of artifacts keeps them safe and stable for years to come.  Many of these artifacts, such as this stanchion fragment, are not the best representations of their kind (there are other, more complete stanchions on display), so these fragments remain in storage, but it is important to keep them stored safely.  Each and every artifact from the Monitor is essential so that one day we may be able to see the entire picture of the ship as she was before she sank that fateful night in December 1862.

The stanchion fragment safe and sound in its new box.

The stanchion fragment safe and sound in its new box.

Join Us April 11 for a Special Guest Lecture by Dr. Ian MacLeod

On Friday, April 11, Dr. Ian MacLeod will be giving a presentation titled “Silent Steam” the SS Xantho Engine Turns Heads After 25 Years” at 1:30pm in Monitor Center Classroom A at The Mariners’ Museum.
SS Xantho  Image Courtesy of the Western Australian Museum

SS Xantho
Image Courtesy of the Western Australian Museum.

Dr. MacLeod is the Executive Director of the Western Australian Museum, and he is a pioneering conservation scientist and underwater explorer. He is also known for conserving a massive steam engine from the wreck of the SS Xantho, which sank off Port Gregory, Western Australia. The Xantho operated in the Atlantic and Pacific from the 1840s – 1870s and had an engine similar in design to the engine aboard USS Monitor. Known for his unique and energetic lecture style, Dr. MacLeod will provide us with the inside story of this amazing project in Australia.
Image Courtesy of the Western Australian Museum.

Image Courtesy of the Western Australian Museum.

Ian has been influential to an entire generation of marine conservators and is part of the USS Monitor Conservation Advisory Committee at The Mariners’ Museum.  This lecture is open to the public with paid admission and free for Museum members. Drinks and snacks will be provided.
Ian MacLeod
Please join us for this rare opportunity to learn from an international icon of maritime conservation.

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays from everyone here at the Monitor Center. We will be back in January with more lab updates, until then stay safe and have a Happy New Year.

Dry Ice Blasting

This post is coming out a little later than I wanted it to, but we have had a very busy few weeks here in the lab. We had some outdoor projects to finish before the weather turned cold. Some of our activities in the last few weeks have included assembling and installing a new anode rig in the tank holding the pieces we used to test the dry ice blasting, winterizing the tank farm and having adventures in the skeg tank. The skeg tank adventures will get their own post after Thanksgiving, today I want to tell you about dry ice blasting.

We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to try out a SDI Select 60 dry ice blaster from Cold Jet. The set up for this machine is not overly complicated. You hook it up to an air compressor; load the hopper with either dry ice pellets or blocks, in our case we found that pellets worked better, the block or pellets are pressed into an auger that shaves them and then the shaved pieces are fired down a hose and out a nozzle held by an operator. The system set up is not so different from other abrasive cleaning methods, but the unique thing about dry ice blasting is that there is no aggregate left at the end to clean up. If you are doing abrasive cleaning using glass beads, sand, ground walnut shell or any other medium you will have to clean bits of that medium off of your object when you’re done. You get to skip this step with dry ice blasting since your medium just sublimates away.

We will need to do more testing and Will has some samples to analyze, but after cleaning some lower hull plates I am willing to say that the results look pretty positive. The comment was made more than once that dirt and corrosion product flew off the surface of the objects. Hopefully this is a cleaning technique we will be able to use again in the future.

Check back soon for lab activity updates and Happy Thanksgiving from everyone here in the Monitor Lab.

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Will adding dry ice pellets to the hopper.

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Dave blasting away. Everyone got a turn. It was very fun.

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Dave blasting and Will keeping an eye on the machine.