It is not fun working in the rain. The team from Conservation Solutions continue the work on the statue, despite the numerous, and often heavy showers we are having in Brooklyn.
Most people think conservation is glamorous, and it is a very interesting, challenging profession that has given me the opportunity to travel and see amazing things, but there are also many times and situations that are the complete opposite of glamorous. Working outdoors, in the pouring rain is one of those times.
A few of the team members are inside the statue with wire brushes scraping off the paint on the iron armature that supports the outer metal sheet. This image shows the interior, as looking up into the statue. The center element is a staircase. When the object was originally installed on the roof of the Liberty Warehouse, we were told that one could walk up the stairs and look down Broadway through Liberty’s eyes. As with most stories, there are only elements of truth. The stairs do access the top of the statue, but there is no evidence of openings in the eyes for viewing.
In-between breaks in the showers, the team works on developing the procedure to repair the holes in the metal skin. It is important for the preservation of the object to have the outer skin be as water tight as possible.
The new metal patches will be riveted in place, following the techniques of manufacture, but this will not give a completely water tight seal. The original sections of metal sheet were riveted and then soldered to one another to create a seal. Because the original metal has developed a corrosion surface or patina, new solder is no longer able to bond well to this corroded surface.
The team is now in the process of trying MIG welding, (Metal Inert Gas), also sometimes known as Gas Metal Arc Welding. A wire of metal is sent through the tip of the gun by the welding machine, which is why it is also called a semi-automatic process. There is nothing simple about it though when dealing with a surface of over 200 year old metal, while standing on a piece of lift equipment, 20 feet up from the ground, in the rain. I’ll keep you posted. If you are in NYC, please stop by the Brooklyn Museum and you can see the progress yourself.
Lisa Bruno is the head conservator of objects at the Brooklyn Museum, where she has been working since 1993. She has previously worked at the Art Institute of Chicago, and has had internships at The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and in private practice. She has a Masters Degree in Art Conservation from the University of Delaware, Winterthur Museum Art Conservation Department. She is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation.