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Keeping things ship-shape

A lot has changed in the Mary Rose Museum since you came on that school trip 25 years ago…

I’m very lucky to work behind the scenes on the ship. I get to walk on the main and hold decks and I go up in a crane to work on the upper and orlop decks. We do all sorts of work behind the scenes to preserve the ship, I’d like to share some of these with you.

Whilst the Mary Rose is no longer being sprayed or dried, there are still lots of things we have to do to make sure she is properly looked after. Examples of this are checking the scaffolding that supports the structure, monitoring cracks that form and keeping the ship nice and clean.

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Scaffolding

There is titanium scaffolding on the ship that was put in in the 1980s, this scaffolding is hard to spot as it has changed colour and blends into the colour of the wood of the ship.

More scaffolding was put in while the ship was drying, to lend more support, which is wrapped in black cladding making it blend in too. Every fortnight this scaffolding is checked by our scaffolder John, who makes sure all the bolts are tight and takes pictures for the angles of the uprights. He goes onto the main deck first, accessing it through a gun port from the platform on the starboard side of the ship that you can see from the galleries in the museum. Then he climbs onto the hold deck using a ladder from the floor of the ship hall.

He has to be very careful as the decks of the Mary Rose can be uneven and he can be working very high up. Thankfully like most scaffolders he has a head for heights!

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Crack markers

Like a lot of old things the Mary Rose has some cracks and splits. We like to keep an eye on these and make sure they are not getting too big. There are small crack markers all over the ship on some of the biggest cracks and splits.

Every year, starting in August two members of the conservation team measure every crack marker to compare with the year before. There are crack markers all over the ship so we have to use the big crane in the ship hall to get up to the upper and orlop decks. Checking all the cracks can take a few months as we only do this work in the mornings before visitors come; we don’t want to spoil your view of the ship!

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Cleaning the ship

Every few years the ship needs cleaning. On the top floor of the museum visitors are in the same room as the hull. This gives everyone an amazing view of the ship but also means that, even though our visitors are generally very clean people, there is a lot of dust in the air from clothes and skin which eventually settles onto the ship. Dust can cause lots of problems for a very old ship like the Mary Rose so it needs cleaning off.

To clean the ship we start at the very top and use special vacuum cleaners with very low suction, long attachments and soft brushes at the ends to carefully suck the dust off the ship but leave behind the fragile wood surface.

Only a few people are specially trained to clean the ship so cleaning the whole ship can take a few months!

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Conservation

Find out more about the conservation of the Mary Rose and the thousands of objects found onboard!

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