120-ton Wrought Iron Beauty

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<em>Monitor</em> Turret out of alkaline solution
USS Monitor‘s revolving gun turret, July 27, 2015, as viewed from a work platform inside the conservation lab. Image courtesy of Jonathon Gruenke, Daily Press

Good morning to all our readers. We’ve been very busy in the Batten Conservation Complex inside the USS Monitor Center over the past few weeks preparing to drain USS Monitor‘s 90,000-gallon revolving gun turret treatment tank for assessment.

Well guess what? The tank is now drained and Monitor‘s gun turret is visible in the open air for the first time in over three years. The excitement in the lab is palpable, and we have an ambitious two-week (July 27 – August 7) work window within the lab.   Read more

Oaktoberfest (Sort of…) and a Toast

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MNMS-2002-001-469BD35 BT1
Gary with his hard-earned trophy.

A few years ago, one of our former conservators Elsa posted about the successful effort to disassemble the port gun carriage excavated from inside USS Monitor‘s gun turret. And last summer, Kate added a post about long-term efforts to stabilize the wooden internal components from the carriage.

One of my favorite pictures from the earlier posts shows former staff guru Gary hoisting an oak gun carriage side from the Wet Lab’s overhead crane for documentation and photography. Here it is in case you missed it:   Read more

An Oldie, But a Goodie

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Engine Forward
Monitor’s main steam engine is perched on its treatment rig within the 35,000-gallon treatment tank. The valve chests are visible on the lower left and lower right, reversing gear eccentrics are positioned dead center and top, and the engine’s cast iron support bed spans the entire top portion of this picture.

This week we’ve been very fortunate to spend some quality time with one of our oldest and dearest friends: USS Monitor‘s vibrating side lever steam engine. Much like our favorite ironclad, this salty lady is over 150 years old but keeps looking better every year.

We took the following pictures on Monday. Please remember that the engine currently sits upside down in the treatment tank.   Read more

More Than Mere Leftovers in Our Fridge

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Organics Survey 1

The USS Monitor Collection at The Mariners’ Museum consists of nearly 1,500 individual artifacts that collectively weigh over 200 tons. That’s a very significant collection in terms of number and weight. Most people imagine heaps and stacks of wrought iron and cast iron when they hear these figures. Heck, the term ironclad makes it difficult to imagine any other construction material. But did you know that the USS Monitor Collection consists of many materials other than just wrought and cast iron?

In terms of metals objects we have copper, brass, bronze, lead, tin, silver, gold, and other alloys in addition to iron. We also have scores of organic objects like wood, rope, leather, wool, cotton, foodstuffs, rubber, bone, oil, canvas, and other unique materials. We can safely move metal artifacts through wet treatment in ambient conditions with varying temperature and humidity. But our organic materials require cool and dark conditions for optimum storage and treatment. Therefore, we store them in a large walk-in cooler at approximately 40-degrees Fahrenheit.   Read more

Powerful New Evidence Against Anthracite Coal

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Coal 1

USS Monitor‘s engines were powered by steam generated by boiling water. Water was boiled by burning massive quantities of anthracite coal. Tons and tons of anthracite coal. Even when Monitor was under tow by the Rhode Island during her last hours afloat, coal was the driving force behind the movement of both vessels. Here is a picture of a small piece of anthracite coal excavated from the interior of Monitor‘s gun turret in 2002.

Original letters penned by crew members of Monitor and modern-day books describe loads of coal as fuel. Archaeologists confirmed this information with their discoveries of coal at the wreck site within the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. But have archivists, historians, and archaeologists led us astray?   Read more