Thursday, August 3, 2017

Turret tours Q&A: Visitors next week can touch shot damage to famed USS Monitor, examine marvel of engineering

Turret after previous draining (Courtesy of The Mariners' Museum and Park)

The turret of the ironclad USS Monitor is drained for only a short time each year to allow access for conservation work. John Quarstein, an author, historian and director of the USS Monitor Center at the Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, Va., this week has been meeting visitors at the platform overlooking the turret to explain the current work. He will be giving tours of the giant artifact on Aug. 8-11. The Picket asked him about that presentation. (A reservation is required and a $100 donation toward the center’s work is requested).

Q. What will you be conveying to the audience next week?

John Quarstein
A. Basically, we interface with a few portions of the “Ironclad Revolution” exhibit and then enter the Batten Conservation wet lab to enter the turret tank. We will walk around the turret and touch shot damage, etc. It is truly an awesome experience. Then we will go up into the dry lab, where we will handle items found inside the turret. I will be telling stories about the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia relating to the artifacts and other aspects of the “Ironclad Revolution” exhibit.

Q. What about the turret interests you the most -- Is it the artifact itself? Or its story? How do you relate that to people?

A. I find the turret fascinating for a multitude of reasons ....the shot dents are all awesome, especially one from a 7-inch Brooke bolt that hit the USS Monitor during the 15 May 1862 (Battle of Drewry’s Bluff). The bolt screwed into the layers of iron plate protecting the turret. I am thrilled every time that I stand in the turret because of those who tested the Monitor during the 9 March 1862 battle with the CSS Virginia. The turret is a major part of the sinking story and is all about survivors and those who were lost at sea. Everyone had to pass through the turret to seek safety.

Sections of conserved coat. (The Mariners' Museum and Park)

Q. When you show off the items found in the turret, which generally are of the most interest to visitors?

A. I think the pilot's coat found in the turret is the most unusual item. It has been conserved and is now on exhibit. I have a piece of Monitor coal on my desk in the USS Monitor Center which I … reflect about. 

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