Gun from battleship USS Maine to be restored at Clemson conservation center
NORTH CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Conservators with Clemson University have been tasked with bringing back to life yet another gun from an historic warship. Scientists with the Warren Lasch Conservation Center recently received the century-old, six-inch, 30-caliber gun from the U.S. Navy battleship Maine. The gun, which weighs more than 16 tons, arrived in North Charleston from Richmond, Virginia.
According to Liisa Näsänen, a conservator at the center, the plan is to treat the gun using the same protocol they have developed and successfully applied during an ongoing high-profile agreement with the National Parks Service.
Since 2013, the team has treated numerous cannons and architectural elements at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island using a super-heated, pressurized water system called ThermaTech, developed by Restorative Techniques Ltd. in the United Kingdom. The process gently and controllably eases off old failing and corroded layers. It also applies water-based corrosion inhibitors to stabilize any active corrosion.
Because of these successes, along with the highly publicized work on the Civil War submarine the H.L. Hunley, the Clemson lab appears to have become the go-to conservator for this type of specialized work, a large contributor to why the facility was selected for the USS Maine conservation work.
“It is an honor to conserve something like this because it’s kind of like bringing an object to life for the next generation,” said Stéphanie Cretté, the director of the Warren Lasch Conservation Center. “I think being given this opportunity speaks to the work we’ve done on other similar projects.”
The USS Maine was commissioned in 1888. While docked in Havana, Cuba, in 1898 a mine ripped through the hull of the ship and caused it to sink, killing 266 men. Media at the time speculated that the Spanish government was the culprit, in no small part leading the United States to declare war on Spain on April 21, 1898, starting the Spanish-American War.
The timing of the arrival is serendipitous for the university as it begins to collaborate with the Cuban government to work with local educators, planners, architects and archaeologists to study and launch a pilot project in the Valle de los Ingenios.
The USS Maine gun is on loan to the conservation center for six months, after which it will be returned to the Navy to be placed on permanent display in an indoor exhibition space.