Conservation Solutions, Inc: Art + Architecture + Artifacts

George Barnard Statuary Conservation - Pennsylvania State Capitol Building

Site
Pennsylvania State Capitol Building, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Client
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

In 1902 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commissioned the American sculptor George Grey Barnard to design a work for the main entrance of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He produced two heroic scaled groups of allegorical figures and symbolic imagery that required a decade to complete. The Carrara marble groups were carved by the Piccirilli Brothers of New York and Italy from individual blocks of marble weighing up to seven tons each.

The sculptures were plagued with numerous problems nearly from the time of their completion, the most troubling being the formation of a widespread network of cracks and fissures. A series of inappropriate and overly aggressive remedial treatments were performed in 1928, 1947 and 1977. These abuses were aggravated by environmental factors including acid rain, pollution, and a severe climate prone to multiple freeze-thaw cycles each year. In an effort to stabilize the deterioration and to prolong the lifespan of these significant works of art, the Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee undertook a five-year conservation project with Conservation Solutions, Inc. (CSI) performing the dual roles of supervisory and monuments conservator.

After first making the sculptural groups watertight by replacing deteriorated mortar joints, previous repairs, and caulking, focus turned to developing long term strategies. Work included the testing of a number of repair and treatment means and introduction of a monitoring program to evaluate effectiveness. Cyclical maintenance based on the testing and intended to prolong the lifespan of the conservation treatment was performed for the next four years (2002-2005). CSI was then contracted to continue maintenance.