Memorials Need Tender Loving Care

By Jan Scruggs

When the American public goes to great places where history is remembered, not everyone thinks about all the work behind the scenes.  At places like our National Parks there is a lot of activity to keep everything looking good.

Washington, D.C. is a town with many memorials and statues remembering famous citizens ranging from President George Washington to the man who developed the counter rotating propulsion for ships, a Swedish immigrant named John Ericcson.

Photo via John Ericsson Society

Photo via John Ericsson Society

Who takes care of these memorials and monuments once constructed in Washington?  The primary agency is the National Park Service. Their dedicated employees do the best they can with the staff and funding made available by Congress.  Their funding is also augmented by nonprofit groups including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. VVMF also provides some highly respected expertise including engineering firms and geologists to review the actual structure from time to time.

Of interest is the recent visit by Objects Conservator Russell Bernabo. Russell was respected by Frederick Hart, the sculptor for the Three Servicemen Statue. Bernardo really understands how to maintain the metallurgy of statues using proper techniques and treatments such as Carnauba waxes.

A stitch in time saves nine is a good way to introduce the recent visit of Russell Bernabo to do some work. This is what he wrote after a visit in August:

Untitled“Our routine maintenance to The Three Servicemen was completed this week with only one significant deviation from the usual wash, wax, corrosion intervention procedures. The area on the top of the base immediately below the proper right figure (machine gunner) had several very small areas of complete patina loss exposing the shiny core metal. These three chips were tiny but deep, as though a sharp object fell on the base. These chips were stabilized with Incralac to prevent the patina from peeling back, then toned to blend, and heavily waxed. This correction is a permanent repair, and we will have no further trouble from these mysterious chips. This might seem very inconsequential, but it is tiny dings such as these that spread into large losses, especially in this area that gets inevitable abrasion from visitors’ shoes.”

So, you see, taking care of statues is important and requires expertise.   Preventing problems through early detection is a big deal.  A few years ago it was a very big and expensive deal; VVMF had to spend over $250,000 to completely restore the statue. Since then we have had our own experts take care of this.  We also have private contractors take care of the grass.

We are proud to take care of this place where America’s fallen are remembered.