We need your help!

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Interior of the USS <em>Monitor</em>'s turret showing the gun carriages in situ.
Interior of the USS Monitor’s turret showing the gun carriages in situ.

The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) is running their Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program again this year. We have nominated the Dahlgren gun carriages. We’ve written quite a bit about the treatment of these composite artifacts in the past (see this post, this post and this postamong others). Being composed of wood, iron, and copper alloy parts renders them one of the most complex objects to conserve in the USS Monitor collection. All of these materials require individual incompatible treatments causing conservators headaches to develop new strategies for their care. Now we need your help to get them onto the top ten Endangered Artifacts list that will promote our conservation efforts. Please go vote at www.vatop10artifacts.org. The public is invited to cast their votes from August 1 to 31. VAM will announce the honorees on September 27th.

We’ll be back with more conservation adventures soon. Now, go vote!   Read more

And we’re back

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Elsa and Kate cleaning away.
Elsa and Kate cleaning away.

So we’ve had a rather long period of radio silence here on the blog. We’re going to try to prevent that in the future! There have been some changes in the lab. Dave, after over a decade with the Monitor, has gone off to chase a new dream with the Naval History and Heritage Command. We wish him all the best, but he is greatly missed here. We’ve added some new faces, too. Lesley joined us a new assistant conservator in December; she’s a recent graduate out of the University of Cardiff conservation program. Some of our long-time readers will remember Elsa. I am happy to say that she rejoined the team at the beginning of January. We’re thrilled to have her back.

Elsa and I have been getting to spend some time with an old friend of hers. Yes, we are once again working away at the wooden gun carriage sides. We’ve talked about these before – a couple of times. We’ve been doing mechanical cleaning of the sides and edges in preparation for chemical cleaning, which will remove most of the iron staining.   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

Wooden Gun Carriage Sides

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Newly constructed stainless steel mesh anode waiting to be installed.
Newly constructed stainless steel mesh anode waiting to be installed.

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.

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

Lifting, Rotating, and Rolling with Care

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Conservation staff use a 5-ton auxiliary hoist with lifting cables to move a 10-foot long section of wrought iron propeller shaft weighing 1,900 pounds.  The shaft's surface is protected from the steel lifting cables by rubber, foam, and canvas.
Conservation staff use a 5-ton auxiliary hoist with lifting cables to move a 10-foot long section of wrought iron propeller shaft weighing 1,900 pounds. The shaft’s surface is protected from the steel lifting cables by rubber, foam, and canvas.

The act of moving USS Monitor artifacts during conservation or onto exhibit at The Mariners’ Museum often isn’t very simple.  Factors like an artifact’s size, weight, fragility, and material composition must be considered before any move occurs in order to avoid damaging these precious artifacts. Minimizing movement during treatment and exhibition is critical to the overall health and long-term survivability of fragile artifacts. Often times the Monitor Conservation team spends days or even weeks planning and prepping for a move that may take no more than a few seconds or minutes.  Better safe than sorry! 

We use a variety of gear and equipment including overhead cranes, lifting straps and cables, shackles, chain hoists, lifting platforms, come-a-longs, pneumatic tires, dollies, forklifts, and good old-fashioned sweat and elbow grease.  But sometimes even the best equipment and planning is no match for 140-years of exposure to a corrosive ocean environment.  As a result, many of these treasured artifacts from USS Monitor are too unstable after deconcretion and conservation to move out of the exhibit.   Read more