Let’s preserve the Monitor

After nearly a century and a half at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, a treasure of American history was raised in 2002. Without a re-examination of federal government priorities, however, it may not be preserved for posterity.

It is the USS Monitor, the first ironclad warship built by the U.S. Navy. Its place in history, both for its innovative features and its feat during the Civil War, is prominent. Had the Monitor not been constructed, it is possible the Confederacy would have won the war.

The ship’s turret, guns, engines and other equipment are being preserved at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va. Since 2002, work to prevent the equipment from deterioration and to ensure it can be displayed safely has been in progress at the museum.

But the museum cannot afford the project on its own. For several years, the federal government has provided assistance.

Federal funding has been cut off, however. Conservation work has been suspended.

It appears about $1 million a year from Washington would allow the project to proceed. In the context of the government’s trillion-dollar budget, that is a pittance.

Of course, federal officials need to find ways to spend less money. But surely, $1 million a year can be made available to preserve the Monitor. Government officials should rethink their priorities and provide more funding for the Monitor project.