Conservator tells how artifacts from Blackbeard shipwreck are handled

Sarah Watkins-Kenney, chief conservator and director of the Queen Anne's Revenge Conservation Lab, speaks to a group about the conservation steps needed to take artifacts from the underwater excavation site near Beaufort, and study them and eventually place them in a museum 
Photo Mike Spencer

By Chanda Marlowe - StarNews

The recent recovery of the 300-year-old anchor from Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, is piquing public interest in the QAR (Queen Anne’s Revenge) conservation project.

Thousands of fascinating artifacts are already on display at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, and the public anxiously awaits the arrival of the anchor as well. But the journey from shipwreck to museum does not happen overnight.

Sarah Watkins-Kenney told those who attended a Third Tuesday program of the N.C. Maritime Museum at Southport what happens to recovered artifacts and why it takes so long before they arrive at a museum.

She is the chief conservator and director of Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Lab. The lab is operated by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

The pirate’s ship sank in 1718 near Beaufort. Archeologists working to recover artifacts from the underwater site.

Artifacts must go through a 12-step process that stretches two to three years. Among the steps are: recovery, cataloging, storage, analysis, cleaning, desalination, consolidation, drying, reconstruction and documentation.

While steps like recovery from the wreckage and transfer to the museum gain a lot of attention, the behind-the-scenes steps are equally important.

One of the hardest parts is identifying the concretions – a mixture of minerals and shells encasing iron artifacts. Determining what the artifacts are can be like solving a mystery. Archaeologists use a radiography (X-ray) machine to help identify these 18th century objects.

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Queen Anne's Revenge Blackbeard museum

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