Our host for our visit was Jonathan Moore, a veteran member of Parks's Underwater Archaeology Team (UAT) who last year became the the team's manager (many will recall his precursor, Marc-André Bernier, who recently retired). Jon helped us get cleared and signed in, then guided us down seemingly endless corridors with automatically-opening doors, reminiscent (as he noted) of the opening sequence of the 60's spy spoof Get Smart!
When a new artifact arrives, having been stabilized sufficiently for transport, it's assessed in terms of what its conservation protocols should be. Metal articles, for instance, may require an extended soak in various solutions in order to help remove accretions, stabilize the metal's surface, and protect it against the eventual exposure to air. Wooden or paper items, in contrast, need mainly to be dried, but it's a process that requires extraordinary care. With wood, one later step requires a special polymer which, once absorbed by the wood, will fill the cavities between its fibers and give it sufficient strength to hold together. Paper is its own special case, especially if it appears to consist of multiple sheets, which require careful timing and great care to separate as the process finishes. For those reasons, the book or "portfolio" recovered during the 2022 dive season was unavailable for us to see.
And so, after our introductory briefing, we set out for our tour of the premises. First, we'd see the work area where the UAT's suits, helmets, and equipment are stored; then the area where replicas of the artifacts are carefully prepared; after that, a visit with the book and paper conservator, and the artist whose careful sketches help record each object and the location where it has been found. Lastly, of course, that area of the building which we were keenest to see -- the rooms where conserved relics are stored. Over the next few days, I'll be sharing the highlights of our visit, concluding with those much anticipated rooms -- it's my hope that my readers will get the sense of sharing in our excitement. So stay tuned!