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Mystery Object

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:

Mystery object’s x-ray

From a conservation stand point, our concern is that the dry leather is very fragile; it has a powdery surface and is delaminating throughout. In contrast to the hardness of the concretions and due to this fragility, the leather could easily be damaged or lost while we’re trying to save it. As a result, before moving forward with treatment, we would like to know more about the actual shape of the artifact- what exactly lays within this concretion (shape, additional metals…)? To find out, we decided to contact our local hospital to see if we could bring in the object for an x-ray CT scan. Yes! A Computed Tomography (or Computerized Axial Tomography, CAT) scan! Computed tomography is an incredible tool, not only for doctors, but also for conservators and archaeologists! The principal is equivalent to regular x-ray imagery but the 3D CT scan outcome provides deeper insights than its 2D equivalent, which can be tremendously helpful to guide a conservation process.

This artifact is so peculiar that we also decided to document the conservation process through 3D imagery. Hannah already worked her magic and documented the object “before treatment”. You can see it here, on our partner’s (Monitor National Marine Sanctuary) Sketchfab website.

We are looking forward to hearing from the hospital and hopefully complete the documentation of this intriguing piece soon! What do YOU think it could be?!

We’re also draining the condenser tank this week for general maintenance of the electrolytic reduction set up and documentation of the artifact. Stay tuned for future updates! Have a wonderful week!

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