For several years now, there has been a webcam of the 90,000 gallon treatment tank where the 120 ton wrought iron turret of the USS Monitor is being preserved by electrolysis and desalination. After spending 111 years underwater, the turret will need to spend roughly another 15 years in the tank before it is stable enough to be displayed in the open air. If you go to the webcam now, however, all you will see is a tarp over the tank. A webcam for the tank where the ship’s 20-ton steam engine and steam condenser are being preserved is also tarped over. The Monitor laboratory at the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia has been shut down by a lack of Federal funding. Fortunately, shutting down the 5,000 square foot Monitor laboratory does not impact the rest of the museum’s operations or displays.
Since 1987, the Mariners’ Museum has been the Congressionally designated repository for the Monitor artifacts. The artifacts themselves are the property of the US government. The museum is acting as conservator and caretaker. The cost to run the Monitor lab last year was $500,000. Last year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided only 10% of the operating costs. In 2012, NOAA provided no funding at all. NOAA is waiting on a budget approval from Congress to find out what funding they will have this year. The lab will reopen once funding is secured.
“We regret having to make this decision, which is a deeply emotional one for our Monitor conservators, who consider themselves the guardians of these artifacts, and of their power to bring to life this important episode of American history,” said Elliot Gruber, president and CEO of The Mariners’ Museum.
The USS Monitor was a revolutionary battleship built in New York City in only 101 days in 1862, during the Civil War. She was the first ironclad warship commissioned by the United States Navy and in the Battle of Hampton Roads on 9 March 1862, fought the casemate ironclad CSS Virginia to a standoff. After behind lost in a storm, she was partially salvaged in 1973.
Thanks to Bryan for passing the news along.