Technology helps Fort Moultrie’s Civil War look new

Conservator Liisa Nasamen hooks up her computer to measure the moisture and humidity inside one of the cannons that are lined up at Fort Moultrie as she works with (right) Rick Dorrance, chief of resource management at Fort Moultrie. The cannons went through an extensive preservation processes to remove rust and years of paint from the historic cannons.

Advances in technology are allowing for “state of the art historical preservation” of Civil War cannons at Fort Moultrie.

Rick Dorrance, chief of resource management at Fort Moultrie, said that the ongoing efforts at the fort can be used as a model of historical preservation standards.

The cannons, returned to the fort on June 10, were removed in early May to have layers of deteriorating paint carefully removed to make room for newer, tougher industrial strength paint. Dorrance said he hopes the new paint stays strong for up to 10 years.

The fresh coat of paint isn’t the only measure taken to preserve Fort Moultrie’s cannons, however.

The cannons have also been outfitted with high-tech sensors, complete with computer connections, that allow for digital measurement of the moisture and humidity inside of the cannon’s barrel.

“We want to make sure the microclimate inside of the gun is stable,” said Liisa Nasamen, the conservator in charge of the cannons’ preservation.

The project to preserve the cannons began in 2012 when Fort Sumter National Monument and Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center determined that six of the fort’s cannons required treatment.

The cannons, sporting fresh black paint and sitting atop new concrete carriages, were originally designed to fire over fort walls at ships as they approached.

Fort Moultrie’s cannon row is the best collection of Civil War cannons in the country, according to Dorrance.

“The diversity and rarity of the collection is unmatched anywhere,” Dorrance said.

And while the cannons have seen their share of updates and preservation efforts, “they’ve never gone through a makeover like this,” Dorrance said.