NOAA 2002-159
Contact: Glenda Tyson
NOAA News Releases 2002
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs

Museum Sets Sights on Conservation and Separating Cannons from Gun Carriages

Newport News, Va.—After three months of excavation, archaeologists and conservators from the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and The Mariners’ Museum have completed the removal of sediment from the gun turret of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor. The Mariners’ Museum conservation team will now begin the long and arduous 12- to 15-year conservation process with an immediate concentration on separating the cannons from their unique carriages and preparing them for removal from the turret. The Mariners’ Museum and NOAA plan to remove the lifting structure and two 11-inch Dahlgren cannons from the turret in 2003.

“This is going to be a very busy winter for the conservation team at the museum,” said The Mariners’ Museum Chief Conservator Curtiss Peterson. “Since its recovery, we have kept the turret stable while excavation took place. Now the conservation team will enter the turret and begin making preparations to remove the gun carriages from the cannons by slowly removing marine encrustations. In addition, we will be working on the over 400 other artifacts that were recovered from the turret and the engine by NOAA and museum archaeologists and Navy divers.”

"Over the next few months, we will analyze the artifacts in more detail, along with our hundreds of drawings, photographs and measurements of the features within the turret,” said John Broadwater, manager of NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and director of the turret excavation. “We plan to continue excavation of the turret in the spring.”

While museum conservators continue their conservation activities, the NOAA team will prepare a recovery and excavation report and, at the same time, begin planning with the U.S. Navy for next year’s expedition. Monitor Expedition 2003 will document recent changes to the shipwreck site and search for artifacts in the hole in the seabed left by the turret when it was removed. The hole may contain the steering wheel, steering station and even a ship’s bell.

The turret joins hundreds of other artifacts recovered from the Monitor, which are undergoing conservation at The Mariners’ Museum. The vessel’s engine, condenser, propeller and propeller shaft are now on exhibit within the museum’s Monitor Conservation Area. The turret is expected to take 12 to 15 years to conserve.

In 1987, NOAA designated The Mariners’ Museum as the custodian of the artifacts and archives of the USS Monitor. As custodian, The Mariners’ Museum is charged with housing artifacts and providing conservation, interpretation and education. These efforts will be greatly enhanced in 2007 when The Mariners’ Museum, in collaboration with NOAA, will open a new USS Monitor Center. The USS Monitor Center will be home to the priceless artifacts recovered from the historic ship and a worldwide resource for exhibitions, conservation, research and education related to the Monitor and the larger story of the naval history of the Civil War.

NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

The Mariners’ Museum, an educational, non-profit institution accredited by the American Association of Museums, preserves and interprets maritime history through an international collection of ship models, figureheads, paintings and other maritime artifacts. The Museum is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. For information, call (757) 596-2222 or (800) 581-7245, or write to The Mariners’ Museum, 100 Museum Drive, Newport News, Va. 23606.

Information about the history of the Monitor and conservation and exhibition of the vessel’s artifacts and archives can be found online at:

To learn more about NOAA Ocean Service and NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program, please visit:

More information about the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and its ongoing recovery efforts can be found online at:

The Mariner’s Museum can be reached on the World Wide Web at: