Posts Tagged ‘conservation lab’

This post is by Shanna Daniels, QAR Conservator.

Many of you are probably wondering what happens to the artifacts once they are recovered from the shipwreck site. At the end of each day, QAR field staff carefully transfers artifacts from the recovery vessel to storage tanks containing water, dockside.  At the end of each week, field staff prepares objects for the journey to the QAR lab by packing them in Rubbermaid containers well padded with wet foam and rags. Once off loaded at the QAR Lab, the objects are placed in temporary wet storage (in tanks containing tap water) until the following week, when the post-recovery processing fun begins for the QAR Lab staff.

The purpose of post-recovery processing is to document, record and catalog each artifact as it comes into the lab, to begin the paper trail and then to get artifacts into an appropriate storage environment as soon as possible.  Recording and documenting includes weighing, measuring, correctly labeling artifact tags, and photography. Each artifact has a unique find number that relates back to its location on site, and which will be used to document everything that happens to the object in future.

Post-recovery processing gives the QAR Lab staff their first opportunity to see the artifacts and to note if anything in particular stands out with each artifact.  For example, if we observe a ceramic embedded in the concretion, we’ll note it.

After every artifact has been processed, the next stage is to place the artifacts in long-term stable wet storage. Concretions are usually placed first in numbered crates and then the crates are placed in a numbered tank; the crate and tank location of each artifact is noted on the objects’ record so they can be easily found.  Each tank contains a basic solution with a pH of 10 (2.5% sodium carbonate in tap water) to slow down the corrosion that could continue to occur if placed in just regular tap water.  Ceramics, glass, wood, and other organics are placed in tap water.   Once stable in wet storage the artifacts await the next step in their conservation treatment.

The final stage in the post-recovery process is completion of documentation.  Each artifact’s information is recorded on a lab sheet, as well as on the QAR artifact database.  This information provides not only the weights, measurements, and storage location of each artifact but also where the artifact was recovered from on the site.  Documentation is a crucial part of conservation because it starts the process of analysis and conservation for the artifacts.  It allows both archaeologist and conservators to view, locate, and analyze each artifact while it goes through the conservation process here at the QAR Lab.

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An eight-foot cannon was raised today from the wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge.   The large gun has been resting at the bottom of Beaufort Inlet since Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, wrecked off North Carolina’s coast in 1718.    To see a tweet by tweet description of the raising, go to www.twitter.com/ncculture.

The approximately one-ton cannon has generated much interest.  A man visiting from Wisconsin told Cultural Resources Secretary Linda Carlisle that he came to Beaufort just to see the cannon.  Media from around the world follow the story of the QAR project as well. 

The cannon, one of 13 to be raised from the wreck over the years, is encased in concretion, a solid mass of mineral deposits that must be removed, along with the soluble salts in the metal, to make the object stable to be studied, handled and displayed.

The cannon will be transported Thursday to the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Lab, housed at ECU’s West Research Campus. The lab is a joint venture between the university and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

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