U.S.S. Monitor Lab Work Suspended
Received this afternoon from the Mariners’ Museum:
Dear members of The Mariners’ Museum family, The Mariners’ Museum has made the difficult decision to temporarily close the 5,000-square foot lab that houses the USS Monitor‘s gun turret and other large artifacts following the Dec. 31, 2013 expiration of an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Sanctuary Program. Simply put, The Mariners’ Museum cannot continue to shoulder the conservation costs for these artifacts, which belong to the federal government. In 2013, the conservation cost was approximately $500,000. NOAA was only able to provide 10 percent of funding, and no funding was designated in 2012, the 150th anniversary of the Monitor‘s historic clash with the Confederate ironclad Virginia in Hampton Roads. The decision to close the “wet lab” does not impact the rest of the Museum operation. The Monitor exhibition Ironclad Revolution is still open, as is the rest of the exhibition space at The Mariners’ Museum. Also, though no progress in the artifacts’ treatment will be made during this period, the artifacts remain in a stable environment. This is an emotional move for all of us, who feel deeply invested in the effort to tell the important story of the USS Monitor through its artifacts. Most affected is our team of Monitor conservators, some of whom have dedicated years to this project, and who consider themselves the guardians of the Monitor. NOAA is waiting on Congress’ approval of a budget to determine what funding to make available this coming year. NOAA and The Mariners’ Museum are working together to ensure that funding is in place to continue this important conservation work. The lab will re-open once funding is secured. You can help us by letting legislators and NOAA know you believe the government should designate funding for the Monitor conservation project at The Mariners’ Museum. Here are three ways you can do this:
Thank you for your support of our continued desire to tell the USS Monitor story, and to preserve these artifacts for many generations to come.
- Sign our change.org petition
- Message NOAA and The Mariners’ to let us know of your support
- Forward this e-mail to your friends
I don’t know what to add except that this is extremely discouraging. The amounts involved in this case are effectively a rounding error compared to most of the stuff the federal government does. It’s easy to believe that the federal agency with direct oversight of this project, NOAA, as the villain in this, but I don’t think they’re receiving the appropriations needed, either. (High-profile projects like Hatteras in 2012 have been underwritten by generous private donors, as the agency itself lacks the funds to do basic maritime heritage fieldwork as part of its mission.) It’s a bad situation.