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San Juan National Historic Site Takes On Critical Phase Of Historic Conservation Project

San Juan National Historic Site

National Park News

On March 27, 2007, San Juan National Historic Site removed historic iron and bronze cannons (that date back to between the 16th and 19th centuries) from Castillo San Cristóbal as part of a cannon conservation project.  Harsh environmental conditions present constant challenges to the preservation of historic artifacts.  The conservation project, started in 2003, will preserve the relic cannons, cannonballs and mortar shells by subjecting them to an electrolysis treatment that will remove detrimental agents like salt and pollution.  

San Juan National Historic Site, a World Heritage Site, showcases the oldest European structures in the NPS, including the largest Spanish fortification in the New World, Castillo San Cristóbal.  The park has a Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units Agreement with the Conservation Laboratory of Texas A&M University to treat the park’s metal objects in the museum collection.  The move was a historic effort and is the first time these artifacts have been moved since they were placed in the fortifications by the US Army in the 1960’s.  Included in the removal was an Ordóñez Seacoast Iron Cannon, fired in the Spanish-American War in 1898, one of the largest cannons in the collection and only one of a very few of its kind left in the world.

Superintendent Walter J. Chavez adds, “This is a landmark project in the park’s history.  Only one of the cannons was treated in the past.  This conservation project will treat all of the artillery in need of attention.  The logistics and the resources involved required the collaboration of park partners from the Municipality of San Juan, the US Army, the Southeast Regional Office and Southeast Region Museum Services.  When returned to the fortifications, the cannons will be better prepared to face the elements and mounted on historically accurate cannon carriage replicas in locations where the Spanish Army would have likely used them.  This project is a statement of the commitment of the NPS and our partners to conserve the resources we have been charged with to protect so that all may appreciate and enjoy.”  Visitors to the park will have the opportunity to visit the treatment facilities and conservation laboratory on the grounds of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, about a mile from San Cristóbal. 


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