News Releases 2002
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs
Continuing the time consuming process of excavation, archaeologists and conservators from the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and The Mariner’s Museum have successfully recovered twenty-four pieces of silver tableware from the turret of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, several of which are now on display at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va. Conservation of the silverware has revealed the names of four crew members.
These discoveries support the theory established by NOAA that objects from the ship’s galley fell into the turret when the vessel rolled over while sinking. “The galley was located almost directly below the turret’s position on the Monitor’s deck. Finding these objects in the turret support our theory and explain why we are recovering such a large amount of silverware, as well as a copper tea kettle,” said John Broadwater, manager of the NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and director of the turret excavation.
Twenty-four pieces of silver-plated or silver-washed tableware have been recovered since excavation began on Aug. 26, 2002. Five pieces are engraved with either the names or initials of a crew member or officers aboard the Monitor. Those pieces include:
All four crew members were among the 16 who were lost the night the Monitor sank on Dec. 31, 1862.
The other nineteen pieces of silverware include forks, dinner forks, handles from knives, teaspoons, serving spoons and a salt or condiment spoon. All 24 pieces of silverware have been, or are being, conserved by Mariners’ Museum Chief Conservator Curtiss Peterson using a process called electrolytic reduction. This procedure helps remove organic encrustations from the surface and corrosive chloride compounds from the interior. The Museum is now exhibiting the silverware that has completed the conservation process.
“These pieces make up a wide range of nineteenth-century tableware in that some are copper with a silver wash or silver plated,” said Peterson. “It took a couple of weeks to remove the corrosion before they were polished with a low abrasive polish and lacquered to decrease the chances of them tarnishing again.”
The turret joins hundreds of other artifacts recovered from the Monitor that are undergoing conservation at The Mariners’ Museum. The turret, 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 $30 million 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.
The 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. NOAA National Ocean Service (NOAA Ocean Service) manages the National Marine Sanctuary Program and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving, and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans.
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.
Additional information on the Web:
USS Monitor Center: http://www.monitorcenter.org
NOAA Ocean Service: http://www.nos.noaa.gov
NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary: http://www.monitor.noaa.gov
Mariners’ Museum: http://www.mariner.org