Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship” - July Update

Posted on Fri, July 13 2012

This post is a follow up to Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship” published on September 9, 2011. After preparing hundreds of condition reports last winter on the many artifacts that curators plan to exhibit in the upcoming Time and Navigation gallery opening at the Museum in Washington, DC in April, 2013, while simultaneously helping the Collections Processing Unit move artifacts from the Paul E. Garber Facility to new digs at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, Museum staff could finally return to work on the center section of the Horten H IX V3 jet fighter, the “Bat-Wing Ship.”  With help from retired treatment specialist Karl Heinzel, Museum conservator Lauren Horelick is determining the best methods to stabilize and protect the center section for movement to the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center later this year. Lauren carefully mapped the object to establish a baseline of problematic areas and to complete an essential step in recording present damage [Figure 1].

Horten H IX V3 Plan
The center section of the Horten H IX V3 jet fighter is scheduled to transfer from the Paul E Garber Facility to the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Center at the Udvar-Hazy Center in late 2012. This in-progress condition map shows the types and extent of damage currently seen on the metal components, which needed to be documented prior to the transfer.  (modified Arthur Bentley drawing published in Shepelev and Ottens, Horten Ho 229, Spirit of Thuringia, 2006).

  In addition to creating written and photographic documentation of the jet, Lauren is conducting material identification analysis to identify the wood used to make the plywood, the adhesive used to bind the micron-thin layers of the plywood, and the adhesive used to join the large structural members of the wood panels. Her analysis will not only add to the history of the Horten wing, it will also help her craft the best conservation treatment protocol.  Summer interns working with scientists at the Museum Conservation Institute are contributing to the materials identification effort.  We will blog the results at the end of this summer. We have begun initial effortsto protect the center section during the move to the Restoration Hanger.  These efforts include removing the fragile plywood belly panels so that conservators can treat the wood for long-term stabilization before reattaching it.  To remove the wood panels safely, it was necessary to apply a facing over sections of the wood to prevent loss of material [Figure 2].

Center Section of the Horten H IX V3
Museum conservator Lauren Horelick carefully attached a sheet of Reemay, a non-woven spun bonded polyester, to cover a section of fragile and delaminating plywood on the underside of the center section of the Horten HIX V3. She used BEVA (Berger's ethylene vinyl acetate) film, a reversible heat-set adhesive, around the perimeter of the Reemay sheet to hold it in place and stabilize the wood so that the panel can safely be removed for later treatment. Lauren cut the small holes seen in the Reemay to provide access to the bolts securing the panel to the steel tube support frame.

Other conservation efforts include researching adhesives to stabilize the plywood and developing methods to address how to move the center section to the Udvar-Hazy Center.  Lauren is considering a multi-layered envelope system that would enclose the entire center section during travel.