Sunday, October 1, 2023

20th Anniversary Celebration Slated For USS Monitor Turret Recovery

NEWPORT NEWS—On March 9, 1862, the USS Monitor dueled to a draw with the CSS Virginia (originally known as the USS Merrimack) in one of the most famous moments in naval history. It was determined there was no winner or loser in the battle, but it did signal the end of the Virginia’s stronghold on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay that had previously been enjoyed by the Confederate Army.

By December of the same year, it was decided that the Monitor’s support was no longer needed in Virginia and the ship was sent to Beaufort, NC to join a fleet assembling for an attack on Charleston, SC. While the Monitor was well designed for the calmer waters of the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding rivers, it was not well suited for the rough waters of the open sea. Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Monitor sank in a gale off the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC.

One hundred and forty years later, on August 5, 2002, at 5:47pm, the Monitor’s gun turret broke the surface of its watery grave to see the light of day once again. Divers had been working for six weeks to bring the historic ship up from the bottom of the Atlantic. Now, 20 years after this incredible moment, The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News will celebrate the achievement with a day full of informative events.

In 1987, The Mariners’ Museum was named the official repository for the USS Monitor. Today, more than 200 tons of priceless artifacts have been recovered from the wreck site and will be on display for visitors at the celebration. On Friday, August 6, the museum will open its galleries to visitors to learn more about the historic Monitor and the significance it plays in history.

“As stewards of Monitor, we [The Mariners’ Museum] are honored to share the incredible stories of its legacy and ongoing impact on the world,” said Will Hoffman, museum director of conservation and chief conservator in a press release. “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.”

The 20th anniversary of USS Monitor’s Turret Recovery will run from 10am to 3pm on Saturday, August 6. Admission for members is free and $1 for all others. The museum is located at 100 Museum Dr. in Newport News.

In-gallery activities will include a special scavenger hunt that explores the USS Monitor Center and the stories that it holds; “What’s in my cannon?” where mariners of all ages are invited to a STEM-based archaeological dig using replicas of cannons found at the USS Monitor’s wreck site; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Monitor Marine Sanctuary, where visitors will be able to use a virtual headset to go 240 feet below the waves to explore the Monitor and swim with the marine life that now calls the shipwreck home.

There will also be two special guest lectures including “The Race to Save Monitor,” at 11am that will be conducted by Dr. John Broadwater, former superintendent of Monitor National Maritime Sanctuary, which was established in 1973 after the Monitor was first re-discovered. The second lecture, “Two Decades of Conserving an Ironclad: An Overview of the Conservation of USS Monitor,” will be given at 1pm by Will Hoffman.

“We are going to have staff members staged throughout the museum at different parts of the Monitor Center,” said Luisa A. Vázquez-López, senior director of advancement at The Mariners’ Museum. “Guests will be able to engage with them to learn more about the different objects we have displayed that have already been conserved.”

For additional information, visit The Mariners’ Museum website.

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