Archive for the 'Artifacts' Category

Dec 16

Washington Navy Yard Warehoused Artifacts Arrive at Richmond Collection Management Facility

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 12:01 PM

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

The curators of the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) completed the transfer of artifacts previously warehoused at its facility on the Washington Navy Yard NHHC officials announced Dec. 16. The artifacts are now at their new home in Richmond, Va.

It’s part of an ongoing project transferring more than 300,000 artifacts, part of its headquarters collection, some dating back to the founding of the Republic, from warehouses at three different locations to their new collection management facility (CMF) in Richmond, Va.

An information graphic illustrating the move of Navy artifacts to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts. NHHC is consolidating its collection of historic artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Annalisa Underwood/RELEASED)

An information graphic illustrating the move of Navy artifacts to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts. NHHC is consolidating its collection of historic artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Annalisa Underwood/RELEASED) DOWNLOAD the graphic here 

The consolidation, projected to last a total of 18 months and now in its third month, allows the Navy to centrally locate the overwhelming majority of its artifacts. The consolidation will translate to improved care, management, accountability and oversight of the collection. The refurbished building in Richmond provides improved environmental controls for high risk artifacts, proper shelving and storage, and an area for conserving and preserving the artifacts.

The consolidation, projected to last a total of 18 months and now in its third month, allows the Navy to centrally locate the overwhelming majority of its artifacts. The consolidation will translate to improved care, management, accountability and oversight of the collection. The refurbished building in Richmond provides improved environmental controls for high risk artifacts, proper shelving and storage, and an area for conserving and preserving the artifacts.

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) -- Lea Davis, Naval History and Heritage Command curator, keeps track of the information on a pallet of cannon balls for the bill of lading, as a contractor from McCollister's Transportation Group secures them for transport. The company is moving artifacts from the command's warehouse and Cold War Gallery to a new facility in Richmond. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) — Lea Davis, Naval History and Heritage Command curator, keeps track of the information on a pallet of cannon balls for the bill of lading, as a contractor from McCollister’s Transportation Group secures them for transport. The company is moving artifacts from the command’s warehouse and Cold War Gallery to a new facility in Richmond. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

NHHC officials say the artifact relocation is a massive undertaking that demands the entire team of curators focus its time and energy on the move.

“We have literally tons of material, some of which is priceless, and nearly all of it irreplaceable. But the work is well worth it if it means in the long run our Sailors and our citizens can better appreciate what the Navy has meant to our country since its inception,” said head curator, Karen France.

NHHC’s Curator Branch will continue to service existing artifact loans, currently numbering in excess of 1,500, but their ability to accept new donations and respond to inquiries will be slowed. The curators have suspended processing requests for new artifact loans as they tackle the project, which requires significant travel in support of preparing and managing the shipment of the vast holdings.

For information about the move, please see a Navy.mil story entitled “Navy Artifacts Getting New Home” and follow NHHC on social media.

To view photos of some of the historic naval artifacts in the NHHC collection, check out the command’s Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/navalhistory/sets/.

As massive as the move may be, it doesn’t affect the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, which remains at its current location at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The museum recently opened its Cold War exhibit and another featuring the War of 1812: From Defeat to Victory.

The museum did, however, recently cut its weekend hours, but is open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for most holidays. The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Tours can be arranged for schools or other groups by calling 202-433-6826.

RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 2, 2014) -- Karen France Naval History and Heritage Command’s head curator, give NHHC Acting Director Jim Kuhn a tour of the new Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot, warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts. NHHC is consolidating its collection of more than 300,000 artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Jim Caiella/RELEASED)

RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 2, 2014) — Karen France Naval History and Heritage Command’s head curator, give NHHC Acting Director Jim Kuhn a tour of the new Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot, warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts. NHHC is consolidating its collection of more than 300,000 artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Jim Caiella/RELEASED)

To enter the Washington Navy Yard and visit the National Museum of the United States Navy, visitors must have a Department of Defense Common Access Card, an Active Military, Retired Military or Military Dependent ID, or an escort with one of these credentials. All visitors 18 and older must have a photo ID. Contact the museum for help accessing the facility at (202) 433-4882.

The Display Ship Barry, which is a separate entity from the museum, is closed for the season and its 2015 schedule has not yet been released. Information about the ship may be found on the museum’s website. To contact the ship, call (202) 433-3377 or (202) 433-6115.

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) -- Hundreds of bells from former U.S. Navy ships lay under wraps on pallets, preparing to be transferred from Naval History and Heritage Command's warehouse on the Washington Navy Yard to a more than 300,000 square-foot facility in Richmond where the command moving a large portion of their quarter of a million artifacts. The facility will provide a place for the artifacts to be more accurately cataloged, stored and, in some cases, made ready for display. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) — Hundreds of bells from former U.S. Navy ships lay under wraps on pallets, preparing to be transferred from Naval History and Heritage Command’s warehouse on the Washington Navy Yard to a more than 300,000 square-foot facility in Richmond where the command moving a large portion of their quarter of a million artifacts. The facility will provide a place for the artifacts to be more accurately cataloged, stored and, in some cases, made ready for display. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the Fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services.

NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

For more information on Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.history.navy.mil or its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/navalhistory.

 
Jan 3

Return of USS HOUSTON Artifacts to NHHC

Friday, January 3, 2014 11:41 AM

Last week, the Naval History & Heritage Command (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) received a trumpet and ceramic cup and saucer from World War II cruiser USS HOUSTON. The artifacts were returned to the US Naval Attaché in Canberra, Australia after their unsanctioned removal from the wreck site and made a journey of more than 10,000 miles to reach NHHC headquarters in Washington, DC. The artifacts will undergo documentation, research and conservation treatment at the UAB Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

Trumpet and ceramics recovered from USS HOUSTON. (UAB Photo).

Trumpet and ceramics recovered from USS HOUSTON. (UAB Photo).

 

USS HOUSTON, nicknamed the “Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast”, was a Northampton-class heavy cruiser that played an important role in the Pacific during WWII. The ship and her crew saw significant action and served in the Battle of Makassar Strait and the Battle of the Java Sea along with allied vessels from Australia, Britain and the Netherlands. On 1 March 1942, USS HOUSTON, fighting gallantly alongside HMAS PERTH during the Battle of Sunda Strait, was sunk by enemy gunfire and torpedoes, taking the lives of nearly 700 US Navy sailors and Marines. 

 

USS Houston anchored off San Pedro, California, 18 April 1935. Photo # 80-CF-21337-1

USS Houston anchored off San Pedro, California, 18 April 1935. Photo # 80-CF-21337-1.

After nearly 72 years under water off the coast of Indonesia, the wreck of USS HOUSTON remains the property of the US Government and serves as a military gravesite. Underwater sites often allow for excellent preservation of archaeological material, however without conservation treatment after recovery artifacts can suffer permanent damage and sometimes complete destruction from unmitigated physical and chemical stresses. The HOUSTON artifacts are poignant reminders of an incredible chapter in US Navy history and the importance of scientific recovery and preservation for future generations to experience, study and appreciate.

A detail of the trumpet's mother of pearl buttons. (UAB Photo).

A detail of the trumpet’s mother of pearl buttons. (UAB Photo).

 

The safe return of these artifacts to the US Navy is the culmination of collaborative efforts by NHHC, Department of Navy and Department of State colleagues at the US Embassy in Canberra, Australia. NHHC is particularly grateful to CAPT Stewart Holbrook and ETC Jason Vaught for their assistance with the recovery, safe storage and packaging of the artifacts. NHHC also extends its thanks to the Naval Historical Foundation for assistance with the expedited transportation of the artifacts to NHHC for conservation treatment.

 Please stay tuned for further updates on the USS HOUSTON artifacts!

 
Sep 9

National Museum of the US Navy to host Battle of Lake Erie Commemoration

Monday, September 9, 2013 1:58 PM

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Join us at 9:00 am on Tuesday, 10 Sept. 2013 at the National Museum of the United States Navy for a day of activities including exhibit tours, demonstrations, first person interpretation, period music, and a lecture at noon.

Schedule of events:

9:05 Showing of WGTE’s documentary “The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest” in the MEC

10:00-10:30 Tour of “1813 Don’t Give Up The Ship” exhibit with Curator Dr. Edward M. Furgol

10:30-11:00 Welcoming Mix and Mingle with Mrs. Madison who will be meandering around the museum telling visitors about living in DC in 1813.

11:00-11:30 Working the Great Guns Naval gun drill by Ship’s Company

11:30-12:00 Ships Company will perform before the lecture

12:00- Lecture by historian Charles Brodine

1:00-1:30 Post lecture performance by Ships Company

1:30-1:45 Working the Great Guns Naval gun drill by Ship’s Company

1:50- Mrs. Madison will make formal remarks

4:00-4:30 Tour of “1813 Don’t Give Up The Ship” exhibit by Curator Dr. Edward M. Furgol

4:05- Showing of WGTE’s documentary “The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest” in the MEC

Visit the “1813 Don’t Give up the Ship exhibit” event details page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/517696241644780

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Can’t make it? Read up on the Battle with two recently published essays related to
the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie:

“Constitution Sailors in the Battle of Lake Erie” – By Marc Collins –
“On the morning of September 10, 1813, after a lookout had spotted the British fleet in the distance on Lake Erie, Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry made the decision to finally engage the British after months of preparations. The British had no choice but to launch an attack, having lost their supply route from Fort Malden to Port Dover; it was either fight or continue to go hungry…”
Continue reading the full Essay: http://goo.gl/0Nv5o6
[PDF]
Mark Collins completed an internship at the Naval History and Heritage Command in 2012,
during his fourth year at Aberdeen University.
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And…

“Precisely Appropriate for the Purpose”: A Hero, a Motto, a Flag, and the American Character”
– By Zachary Kopin –

“When America went to war in 1812, it did so to protect its maritime trade. For the young country, this cause was not new. The international relationships and entanglements of the previous quarter century had, for the most part, been contested on the high seas. The United States fought both the Quasi-War with France (1797–1801) and the war with Tripoli (1801–1805) for the right to sail and trade freely without harassment. From those wars emerged naval heroes, such as Thomas Truxtun, Edward Preble, and Stephen Decatur, whose exploits a patriotic nation would avidly follow in the newspapers…”
Continue reading the full Essay: http://goo.gl/M79aXP
[PDF]
Zachary Kopin completed an internship at the Naval History and Heritage Command in 2013, before entering his third year at American University.
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Other news from around the NHHC Museum Network:

MuseumLogo


War of 1812 news from Naval Station Great Lakes,

the Quarterdeck of the Navy.
From the Great lakes Naval Museum:
Great Lakes Naval Museum Hosts Exhibit on the War of 1812
In honor of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the Great Lakes Naval Museum will be featuring an exhibit on the War of 1812. Included in this display are historic artifacts from the conflict that are on loan from the Naval History and Heritage Command, including pieces of the USS Niagara and USS Constitution and a sword belonging to the commander of the Constitution, Captain Isaac Hull. As an official department of the Navy Museum, the Great Lakes Naval Museum’s mission is to select, collect, preserve, and interpret the history of the United States Navy with particular emphasis on the Navy’s only “boot camp” at Naval Station Great Lakes. The Museum is located at the Naval Station by the Main Gate. Admission and parking are free.
Please call 847-688-3154 or e-mail glnm (at) navy.mil for more information about this event.
For additional information about the Great Lakes Naval Museum,
visit www.history.navy.mil/glnm …or
www.facebook.com/greatlakesnavalmuseum

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View the National Museum of the US Navy September events schedule.

RSD

 

 
Jun 14

Howell Torpedo

Friday, June 14, 2013 11:11 AM
photo from Naval Undersea Museum

photo from Naval Undersea Museum

In 1883 the United States Navy held a public contest to find new design concepts for torpedoes. After reviewing several proposals, the Navy Torpedo Board selected a design submitted by the head of the Department of Astronomy and Navigation for the U.S. Naval Academy, Lieutenant Commander John A. Howell.

The Howell torpedo was initially conceived in 1870 and was an improvement to older torpedo models. A key enhancement to the weapon was the addition of a flywheel, which acted as both a means of propulsion and provided additional stability to the torpedo. The Howell torpedo was 11 feet long with a diameter of 14 inches and weighed 580 pounds. Howell torpedoes could reach a speed of 26 knots and a range of 400 yards, and would become the first self-propelled torpedo developed by the United States.

In 1888 the Navy ordered 50 Howell torpedoes, manufactured by the Hotchkiss Ordnance Company, which were used on USN battleships and torpedo boats for about 10 years. In 1898 there were 35 torpedo boats that were able to transport fire and Howell torpedoes. Ships could launch this torpedo from either above water or torpedo tubes that were submerged beneath the water.

NMMP dolphins such as the one pictured above wearing a locating pinger, discovered the rare torpedo during training exercises. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho.)

Until recently it was believed that only two torpedoes of this design existed, located at the Naval Undersea Museum and Naval War College Museum; however, another specimen was recently discovered off the coast of San Diego. During a training exercise, Navy Marine Mammal Program dolphins indicated the existence of an object submerged in the ocean floors. Divers then investigated, and the tail and mid-section of a Howell torpedo emerged. Both sections of this composite artifact have been well preserved while buried due to the favorable underwater environment.

After being evaluated for factors such as safety, condition, and material composition, the two torpedo sections were transported to the Naval History and Heritage Command‘s Archaeology & Conservation Lab. After the torpedo has been treated, conserved, and preserved in the lab it will be placed on display. For more information on the conservation of Howell torpedo no. 24 please see the fact sheet.

Howell Torpedo arrives at NHHC for treatment at the Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory, 30 May 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Cothran)

 

 
Mar 25

The Conservation of Enfield Rifle Barrels from USS Tulip

Monday, March 25, 2013 9:32 AM

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) manages the Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory which is primarily tasked with the documentation, treatment, preservation, and curation of artifacts from US Navy sunken military craft. Artifact conservation is an integral part of any archaeological investigation and allows for the long-term study, interpretation, and preservation of irreplaceable submerged cultural resources.

Recently, the Archaeology & Conservation Lab has been treating a group of Enfield rifle barrels from the wreck site of USS Tulip. Purchased by the Union Navy during the Civil War, Tulip, a steam-screw gunboat, joined the Potomac River Flotilla in 1863. Tulip was tasked with towing, transporting and landing soldiers, supporting Union communication, and maintaining the Union blockade of Confederate ports. The vessel later sank off of Ragged Point, Virginia on 11 November 1864 after her defective starboard boiler exploded. The sinking claimed the lives of 49 of the 57 sailors on board.

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel Before Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel Before Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip and her associated contents, like all US Navy sunken military craft, remain property of the US government regardless of the passage of time or location, and are further protected from unauthorized disturbance or artifact removal by the Sunken Military Craft Act (SMCA). Many of the artifacts from Tulip are a painful reminder of the importance of protecting and preserving these archaeological sites. The Tulip artifacts were removed without permission in an unmethodical manner and did not receive conservation treatment after recovery. Because of this, many artifacts which were likely very well preserved at the time of recovery became seriously deteriorated due to unmitigated corrosion and dry storage in a non-climate controlled environment. Archaeologists have also lost the valuable information that is conveyed by documented artifact provenance on an underwater site.

After a two year effort by the Maryland Maritime Archaeology Program, over 1,500 artifacts, previously removed from the wreck site of USS Tulip in the late 1960s, were returned to the US Navy and sent to NHHC for conservation. The artifact collection includes military uniform components, navigation equipment, ceramics, personal items, medical items, ship’s hardware, tools, ordnance and artillery including the Enfield rifles. These particular rifles were manufactured by the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield (London), which was owned by the British government and produced weaponry such as rifles, muskets, and swords. The rifles were a popular weapon with both Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War for their accuracy and reliability. Both the Union and the Confederate armies purchased Enfield rifles from the British to outfit their troops.

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel and Ramrod After Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel and Ramrod After Conservation Treatment

The Archaeology & Conservation Lab has been able to conserve and preserve several of the USS Tulip Enfield rifle barrels. To prevent further corrosion on the barrels, conservators used a process called Electrolytic Reduction (ER) to remove the corrosion-causing compounds from the artifacts, effectively stabilizing them. The barrels were then carefully cleaned and coated with a solution which bonds to the iron and creates a protective film on the surface of the barrels. After all the barrels have received conservation treatment, they will be temporarily stored in the curation spaces in the Archaeology & Conservation Lab with the hope to eventually place them on exhibit.

 
May 24

NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch and MDSU2 Survey SB2C Helldiver Wreck

Thursday, May 24, 2012 4:34 PM

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) is currently cooperating with the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and U.S. Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit TWO (MDSU-2) to investigate a WWII-era SB2C Helldiver aircraft wreck off the coast of Jupiter, FL. The objectives of the investigation are to identify the aircraft using its numbered identification plates, measure and map the wreck site, and document the aircraft.

Investigation operations are being conducted from USNS Apache (T-ATF 172), one of MSC’s four Fleet Ocean Tugs and one of the 14 ships in its Surface Support Program. USNS Apache’s main mission is to render assistance to the US Navy’s numbered fleets by providing towing, diving platform and other services. UAB is also pleased to have the opportunity to once again work with MDSU-2. Their expertise and support were much appreciated aboard USNS Grasp, during the 2011 collaborative survey expedition to locate the wreck of USS Bonhomme Richard in the North Sea. (Photo to the left courtesy of Military Sealift Command Ship Database)

In addition to assisting UAB with its archaeological investigation, this project also provides MDSU-2 divers the opportunity to gain valuable training experience by performing deep water, mixed-gas dives up to 185 ft (56.4 m); collecting measurements of underwater sites; and conducting underwater navigation exercises. Over the previous four days, MDSU-2 divers have assisted with measuring the wreck site, documenting the aircraft, and mapping its disarticulated pieces. All divers are equipped with live video feed in their helmets, which allows MDSU-2 dive supervisor and UAB representative underwater archaeologist Heather Brown to observe underwater operations from aboard Apache in real time.

The wreck was first discovered and filmed by a local dive charter operator late last year, who then contacted NHHC about the find in early 2012. Video footage of the wreck (photo on the right is a still taken from video by Randy Jordan) shows that it is relatively intact and currently rests in an inverted position on the sandy ocean floor. The vertical stabilizer, ailerons, flaps, and elevators initially appeared to be missing, however portions or fragments of those elements have since been located on the site. The propellers and engine have been separated from the fuselage and lie several meters away from of the main body of the wreck. There are a number of ropes wrapped around the propellers and what appears to be a lobster trap lying beside the engine, suggesting the wreck may have been previously snagged by a fishing boat. (Sonar image of the SB2C site shown at the right)

As the wreck is resting in an inverted position on the sandy bottom, the cockpit and the aircraft bureau number were not readily accessible to the divers. However, they were able to locate a model number plate, heavily covered in marine growth and currently illegible, and carefully remove it. The plate is being sent to the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Lab at NHHC headquarters on the Washington Navy Yard, DC, where it will be treated and examined by UAB’s conservation team and hopefully provide data to help identify the aircraft.

(The heavily corroded data plate)

Stay tuned for more updates as the project progresses!

Click the below link to watch Local News Channel 5 WPTV.com interview with NHHC underwater archaeologist Heather Brown:

 
Oct 17

Innovative Scientific Analysis Tool at Underwater Archaeology Conservation Lab

Monday, October 17, 2011 1:54 PM

Dr. Raymond Hayes (left) and Head Conservator George Schwarz examine p-XRF data taken from a Civil War-era Aston pistol recovered from USS HOUSATONIC at the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

NHHC volunteer, Dr. Raymond Hayes, Professor Emeritus at Howard University, Washington DC, and Woods Hole Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, has partnered with the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory (UACL) to analyze archaeological materials from historic naval shipwrecks.

Dr. Hayes has been awarded a Research & Discovery Grant from Olympus INNOV-X to examine archaeological components from shipwrecks using an innovative Delta portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) unit. This state-of-the-art technology uses an x-ray beam to identify the specific elements present within archaeological material. Dr. Hayes’ research endeavors to use this data to trace the elemental composition of a wood sample back to original construction materials, marine sediments, and sealing or fastening materials applied to wooden ships. Included in the study are data from USS Housatonic, USS Tulip, and CSS Alabama, as well as recently recovered artifacts from the 2011 USS Scorpion field project, the archaeological investigation of a Patuxent River shipwreck believed to be the flagship of the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, which fought to defend Washington D.C. from the British during the War of 1812. As part of the Navy’s commemoration of the Flotilla’s important role in the War of 1812, a full excavation of the USS Scorpion site is anticipated.

Scientific technologies like pXRF provide archaeologists and conservators valuable chemical information that can be used to better conserve and interpret submerged cultural heritage. An innovative feature of pXRF devices is that they can be used in both the laboratory and the field to analyze artifacts recovered from wet environments. Artifacts from underwater sites can be difficult to initially identify as they may be encased within thick concretions or obscured by unidentifiable corrosion products, however, pXRF data can give archaeologists data which can signal the presence of an artifact. 

Detail of portable X-Ray Fluorescence machine collecting data from Civil War-era pistol.

Following recovery from underwater archaeological sites, artifacts are particularly susceptible to damage caused by soluble salts (e.g., chlorides) accumulated from the water or sediment that surrounded them for decades or even centuries. If allowed to crystallize, the salts expand and cause catastrophic damage which may result in complete destruction of the artifact. Data from pXRF can determine the concentration of chlorine within an artifact to help conservators understand the degree of salt contamination and mitigate it properly. During conservation, pXRF can help conservators develop the most optimal treatment plan for artifacts and reveal the presence of toxic components, such as lead, cadmium or arsenic. Comparative data may also reveal similarities or differences in artifact composition that could suggest age and geographic origins.

This is only one part of the extensive research that goes on at the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Lab, where over 2300 artifacts recovered from US Navy shipwrecks and aircraft wrecks are curated, 140 of which are currently undergoing active conservation treatment. The Laboratory, located in BL 46 of WNYD, also hosts public tours showcasing important artifacts that span from the American Revolution to World War II and make the Navy’s history come alive! Please feel free to contact us anytime (202.433.9731) if you’d like to visit!

 For more information about the NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch and the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory, please visit http://www.history.navy.mil/underwater.

 
Jul 28

USS SCORPION Project 2011 Day by Day: Week Three

Thursday, July 28, 2011 11:05 AM
 
 

Dr. Robert Neyland, UAB, records measurements and observations from his dive.

 Monday, 18 July 2011-

Today, we were back in the Patuxent trenches continuing our efforts to delineate the boundaries of the suspected USS Scorpion wreck. So far, the team has been successful in uncovering ship timbers in test units placed on the upstream and downstream extremities of the site. These test units allow archaeologists to assess the vessel’s degree of preservation, articulation, and orientation within the river. One of the vessel’s features that we are still trying to determine is which end of the wreck is the bow and which end is the stern. Since Scorpion and the rest of the Chesapeake Flotilla were possibly burned when scuttled in 1814 to prevent British capture, this may have severely damaged the ends of the structure making it difficult to delineate bow from stern. More excavation and analysis is needed before a positive identification can be made.

 Tuesday, 19 July, 2011-

An exciting discovery! Archaeologists working at the north end of the wreck site have determined that it is likely the bow of the ship. One main reason for this hypothesis is the discovery of a “breasthook,” a thick, curved piece of wood that is typically placed across the stem (the very foremost part of a ship) to strengthen it and unite the bows on each side. So far, all of the planking and architectural structure of the ship uncovered by the divers appear to be very strong and solid; after nearly 200 years sealed beneath the thick sediment of the Patuxent, the majority of the vessel appears to be quite sound and very well-preserved.

Immediately following each dive, the team records notes, measurements and observations while underwater. They also produce a detailed sketch of the submerged wreck site based upon the new areas exposed during the dredging. Updated sketches are a necessity to the project as more and more of the wreck is uncovered. The UAB team is currently working to further expose and analyze the southern end of the wreck which, after the discovery this morning, is most likely the stern of the vessel.

 

Iron strop with wood fragment (presumably part of a deadeye) recovered from the wreck site. Image courtesy of MSHA.

Friday, 22 July, 2011-

A very interesting artifact was recovered today! Archaeologists working near the north end of the wreck (now believed to be the bow) recovered a double-looped iron “strop” which typicaly holds a circular wooden piece called a “deadeye,” an essential part of the rigging of a sailing vessel. The deadeye was so called by sailors because of the way it’s three holes resemble the eyes and nose of a skull. The strop was transported back to the NHHC Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Lab and, after further analysis, appears to contain a small wood fragment of the deadeye it once held.

Despite the extreme heat, the team managed to conduct several dives and continue to delineate the extent of the vessel. In the afternoon, underwater visibility improved enough for Dr. Neyland to take down the underwater video camera and film near the southern end of the wreck.

 
 

Anthracite, a high-luster, clean-burning coal commonly used aboard ships. This piece was recovered from the Scorpion project wreck site.

Saturday, 23 July, 2011-

Another interesting artifact was recovered today: a piece of anthracite. Anthracite is a very hard, compact variety of coal that is very lustrous. Although difficult to ignite, anthracite was the preferred coal for use aboard ships as it burned cleanly and produced little smoke. With their considerable expertise, archaeologists are able to sift through several meters of sediment and distinguish very small, seemingly insignificant artifacts like this as potentially important parts of the wreck site. The team continued to excavate key points on the wreck site and sketch the architecture of the ship as more and more of the vessel is revealed. Stay tuned for updates next week!

 
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