Waterlogged Wood from the USS Monitor: A New Direction for Research and Collaboration

This is a PowerPoint presentation on the conservation of USS Monitor given at the 2009 American Institute for Conservation (AIC) conference by Susanne Grieve, Farideh Jalilehvand, Robert Blanchette, Joel Jurgens, Todd Plaia and Dave Emerson.

The preservation of the waterlogged wood excavated from the USS Monitor, one of the first Civil War ironclads constructed, provided opportunities for conservators to work with wood chemists and microbiologists to examine the effects and retreatment of sulfur deteriorated wood as well as methods of stabilization for untreated wood. The Monitor, constructed in 1862, sank after a year in service while being towed during a hurricane. In collaboration between the United States Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), artifacts were excavated from the wreck site lying in 250 feet of water. While the Monitor is mostly constructed of iron, there are several hundred artifacts that are composed of various species of wood. Wooden components treated in 1990 are beginning to show signs of sulfur deterioration similar to the Swedish warship Vasa. In order to determine the most appropriate method for retreatment and to prevent deterioration from occurring in recently excavated objects, The Mariners’ Museum has collaborated with related scientific fields to analyze samples from the wreck site.