NEWPORT NEWS, VA — In the late afternoon of August 5, 2002, the sun cast its rays upon the turret of USS Monitor for the first time in 140 years as it emerged from the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. To celebrate this historic occasion, The Mariners’ Museum and Park will host a community event on Saturday, August 6, 2022, featuring family-friendly and interactive activities and lectures from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern time. The Museum will also recognize those who set the groundwork for such an incredible achievement 20 years ago at an invitation-only event on Friday, August 5.
Construction of Monitor’s turret, which would later become the most recognizable artifact from the Civil War ironclad, was a collaborative effort. The wrought iron plates for the massive object were produced at Horace Abbott & Sons of Baltimore, Maryland, and assembled into the turret at Novelty Iron Works in New York City. Due to a weight of nearly 120 tons, the turret had to be disassembled and later fully reassembled on the ship after its initial launch on January 30, 1862, from the Continental Ironworks at Greenpoint, Brooklyn (New York). For armament, the turret was fitted with two XI-inch Dahlgren shell guns which could fire through ports in its side. Most importantly, a series of gears driven by a pair of steam engines installed below Monitor’s deck allowed the turret to rotate, a first in naval history. These gears enabled it to play its crucial role in the epic Civil War showdown against CSS Virginia in the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862.
Although the battle between the ironclads resulted in a draw, the impact of the turret’s revolutionary design changed the course of naval technology and development forever.
“The legacy of Monitor continues to resonate more than 160 years after the legendary Civil War naval battle,” President and CEO Howard Hoege III said. “Its story represents more than technology and innovation; it’s a collection of human stories of those who built the ironclad and served aboard the ship united by a common goal. What a timeless example of patriotism and pride for us today.”
In addition to celebrating the anniversary of Monitor’s turret recovery, August also marks 50 years since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established its first national marine sanctuary. USS Monitor’s wreck site, discovered in 1973, was designated the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, and in 1987, The Mariners’ Museum was named the official repository for USS Monitor. Today, the collection consists of more than 200 tons of priceless artifacts recovered from the wreck site.
Many Monitor objects, including the revolutionary turret, are on display at The Mariners’ award-winning Ironclad Revolution exhibition within the USS Monitor Center or undergoing conservation in the Batten Conservation Complex. Considered the largest archaeological marine metals conservation project undertaken worldwide, the Museum continues to make significant strides with its diverse team of staff, outside experts, and key partners such as NOAA to conserve and preserve the ironclad’s artifacts. In April, Monitor’s condenser bed framing was flipped and the vessel’s two Dahlgren guns were bored using a custom-made machine in February 2020. At the end of this month, water will be drained from the propulsion tank allowing guests a unique opportunity to watch the conservation team in action.
“As stewards of Monitor, we (The Mariners’ Museum) are honored to share the incredible stories of its legacy and ongoing impact on the world,” Will Hoffman, Museum director of conservation and chief conservator, noted. “The artifacts from Monitor are connections to the people who built and used them, and it is the goal of the Conservation team to ensure that they are preserved, and the stories they tell are shared with the public today and in the future.”
On Saturday, August 6, The Mariners’ will host fun activities and exciting lectures to engage mariners of all ages, including a special scavenger hunt in the USS Monitor Center, a STEM activity where kids can roll up their sleeves and learn about gun boring excavation, and an interactive experience with NOAA representatives. Guests will have the opportunity to hear lectures from special guests, see conservation in action with the Museum’s Conservation team, and engage with people who have direct knowledge or experience of the turret recovery. All activities are included with $1 admission and free for Mariners’ Museum Members.
For more information, visit https://www.marinersmuseum.org/monitor20/.
20th Anniversary of USS Monitor’s Turret Recovery
Saturday, August 6, 2022
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Activities are included with $1 admission. Free for Mariners’ Museum Members.
In-gallery Activities (Main Lobby):
➤ A special scavenger hunt exploring the USS Monitor Center and the magnificent stories it holds.
➤ What’s in my cannon? Mariners of all ages are invited to participate in a STEM-based archaeological dig using replicas of cannons found at USS Monitor’s wreck site.
➤ NOAA Monitor Marine Sanctuary: Using a virtual headset, NOAA will take guests 240 feet below the waves to explore Monitor and swim with the marine life that now calls the shipwreck home!
Special Guest Lectures (Anna Huntington Room):
➤ 11 a.m. - The Race to Save Monitor
Presenter: Dr. John Broadwater, former superintendent of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
➤ 1 p.m. - Two Decades Conserving an Ironclad: An Overview of the Conservation of USS Monitor
Presenter: Will Hoffman, Museum director of conservation and chief conservator
The Mariners' Museum and Park connects people to the world's waters because through the water – through our shared maritime heritage— we are connected to one another. The organization is an educational, non-profit institution accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and preserves and interprets maritime history through an international collection of ship models, figureheads, paintings, and other maritime artifacts. The Mariners’ Museum is home to the USS Monitor Center and is surrounded by the 550-acre Mariners’ Park, the largest privately maintained park open to the public in North America. The Mariners’ Museum Library is the largest maritime library in the Western hemisphere. Because of the Museum’s world-class Collections and its reputation for high-level exhibits and programs, in 1999, the U.S. Congress designated The Mariners’ Museum as one of only two maritime museums that comprise America’s National Maritime Museum. The Museum galleries are open to the general public with $1 admission; the Museum team continues to offer FREE virtual programs for those who prefer to engage online or through social media platforms and blog posts. The Mariners’ Park and Noland Trail are open for daily use. For additional information, visit MarinersMuseum.org, call (757) 596-2222, or write to The Mariners' Museum, 100 Museum Drive, Newport News, VA 23606.