COLLEGE STATION, Texas - After nearly five years of intense work, Texas A&M University preservation experts shipped off a Civil War cannon to its new home in Texas City.
Project Manager Justin Parkoff has led the restoration of the USS Westfield since the remains of the old battleship were sent to a lab at the Riverside Campus in 2009. The ship spent well over 100 years buried deep in the waters of the Texas City Ship Channel after it sank during the Battle of Galveston in 1863.
The cannon, weighing in at more than nine thousand pounds, was the first piece to be shipped to the Texas City Museum for permanent public display.
"This is going to be a huge burden off my shoulders," said Parkoff. "It's very daunting, because the task never seems to end."
The cannon is the first phase of the project. Behind the scenes at the lab, thousands of original and replicated pieces await their turn in the spotlight. Including pieces of a massive boiler, torn apart when the Union ship was intentionally exploded to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.
"We're going to be taking thousands of those pieces from one of those two boilers, and putting it back together in a massive jigsaw puzzle in the museum," said Parkoff.
It's a puzzle that's changed the lives and perspectives of the people working on it.
"It's really given me an opportunity to grow and to learn more about conservation," said Assistant Project Manager Jessica Stika. "To learn more about the ship and the people that were on it."
Andrew Thomson with the Texas A&M Nautical Archaeology Program, spent his time restoring the cannon. He said the team's satisfaction comes from knowing the work they've done will benefit generations to come, and will educate them on an otherwise lesser known part of the Civil War.
"This will give people an idea of what happened in the area. And the kind of history that we can reclaim and preserve for future generations," said Thomson.
The cannon will spend the night in a warehouse in Texas City. Crews will begin the process of moving it into the museum Wednesday morning.