Four Artifacts from Clotilda Undergoing Conservation


August 10, 2023                                                                                                          

Four Artifacts from Clotilda Undergoing Conservation 

Montgomery – The Alabama Historical Commission (AHC), RESOLVE Marine, Terra Mare Conservation, and the History Museum of Mobile report ongoing conservation treatment of four artifacts recovered from the Clotilda shipwreck during archaeological investigations in May 2022.

During fieldwork, these artifacts were selected for conservation and eventual display in Clotilda: The Exhibition at the Africatown Heritage House, a site of the History Museum of Mobile. The artifacts include a lead hawse pipe from the bow, a small section of hull planking held together by iron drift pins, and a section of planking that retains marks from a circular steam saw. AHC worked with Terra Mare conservators to transport the largest artifact, a timber with an iron pulley and fragments of a braided metal and rope cable in the pulley from the ship’s steering mechanism.

The four artifacts were recovered from brackish water meaning they require specialized care to prevent rapid and irreversible deterioration. Treatment steps for waterlogged archaeological artifacts generally include X-ray imaging, removal of marine growths and thick corrosion layers known as concretions, desalination to remove soluble salts which will cause irreversible damage if not removed before drying the artifacts, and stabilization of the organic components.

Conservators Claudia Chemello and Paul Mardikian of Terra Mare Conservation, who are leading conservation efforts for Clotilda, are treating each artifact differently based on its component materials and recovered condition. Following the technical and scientific conservation process, these artifacts will be exhibited at the Africatown Heritage House where they will help illustrate the story of the 110 enslaved people aboard the Clotilda.

“Treatment of metal and composite artifacts is one of our specialties and working with the AHC and the History Museum of Mobile has been a unique and rich experience as we continue our conservation efforts for these artifacts to help tell the story of the Clotilda,” said Project Lead Paul Mardikian.

In addition to the treatment of the four artifacts, Terra Mare worked with the AHC, RESOLVE Marine and the archaeological team to assess the condition of the wreck during the 2022 fieldwork. Collaboration between archaeologists and conservators, as well as with project stakeholders, is essential for the management of underwater cultural heritage.

Governor Kay Ivey and the state legislature appropriated $1 million to the AHC for Phase 3 for scientific investigation of the Clotilda. The scope of the project allowed for the retention and conservation treatment of diagnostic artifacts for display.

“As the guardian of the Clotilda, the Alabama Historical Commission takes the stewardship of these priceless artifacts very seriously”, said State Historic Preservation Officer and Executive Director of AHC Lisa D. Jones. “The preservation of these artifacts is important to Africatown and the nation. Careful consideration for the protection, preservation, and interpretation of these significant pieces has been methodical, strategic, and deliberate.”    



About the Alabama Historical Commission

Located in historic downtown Montgomery at 468 S. Perry Street, the Alabama Historical Commission is the state historic preservation agency for Alabama. The agency was created by an act of the state legislature in 1966 with a mission to protect, preserve and interpret Alabama’s historic places. AHC works to accomplish its mission through two fields of endeavor: Preservation and promotion of state-owned historic sites as public attractions; and statewide programs to assist people, groups, towns, and cities with local preservation activities. For a complete list of programs and properties owned and operated by the AHC, hours of operation, and admission fees please visit  

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