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What have you been up to back there?

We have a fantastic corps of volunteers here at the museum. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know some of them, particularly the Navigators, who greet visitors, offer tours, and make sure guests find their way to all of the exhibits. Whenever I see them, they never fail to ask how the conservation of the Monitor is going, or if we’ve discovered anything new, or sometimes more generally: what have you been up to back there lately?

So here’s what we’ve been up to lately. . .

  • Museum Hack held a writing contest earlier this year. They were looking for articles written about museums and the direction the field is going. We just found out that Hannah’s article placed in the top three! Read it here. She wrote about the museum’s mission statement, the notion of six degrees of separation, and Kevin Bacon. Way to go Hannah! If you have never heard of Museum Hack you should check out their website
  • We held behind the scenes tours as part of the MegaRust conference for the American Society of Naval Engineers. MegaRust is held annually as a symposium on corrosion issues facing the modern Navy. This year the conference came to Newport News. Attendees seemed to enjoy hearing about how we are dealing with corrosion issues facing a historic piece of the Navy.
  • The last week of June was spent out in the Tank Farm. Tank 6, the smallest of our outdoor tanks, holds the canopy stanchions from the turret. This was their third round of dry ice cleaning. We’re hoping to finish the treatment of these artifacts in the next year or so. The stanchions highlight the impact that sinking had on the ship, in both a literal and figurative sense. Some are bent. Some are broken. All show damage that occurred when the turret flipped over and landed on them. They serve as a poignant reminder of the fate of the Monitor.
One of our more bent stanchions after dry ice cleaning
  • We’ve had the opportunity to work on smaller artifacts for the month of July. Everyone has a number of projects on the go at any one time, but here are some of the highlights: I’ve been working on bolts from one of the gun carriages. They are out of electrolysis, have been rinsed, dried and are moving toward their final phases of treatment. Laurie has started cleaning one of the gun sponges. All of the concretion has to come off before stabilization of the wood can begin. Lesley is moving some gaskets through their last steps of treatment. They look great! Elsa is working on a manometer. Very interesting artifact that measured pressure and would have been used in the engine room. And, Kim, our summer intern, is deconcreting a rather large valve.
Kim starting to deconcrete a valve using an airscribe.
Kim continuing to deconcrete a valve with an airscribe. Great progress!
Gun carriage bolts in their final phase of treatment.
  • Earlier this week, high school students from the College of William and Mary’s National Institute of American History and Democracy (NIAHD) came for a behind the scenes tour of the conservation laboratory as part of their three week summer program. A tour of the lab has been part of their educational program for years and I must admit that this is a group I always look forward to seeing. They’re bright kids, with a thirst for knowledge and a genuine love of history. I hope some of them end up in the museum field someday; they’re off to a good start.

We’ve got another couple of weeks of working indoors on smaller objects. Then it will be back into one of the bigger tanks. We’ll keep you updated as work continues. Hope everyone is having a great summer! If you find yourself in the Hampton Roads area, you should stop into The Mariners’ Museum – admission is $1 until Labor Day – and we’ve got some fantastic new exhibits.

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