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A Restoration Story for Monumental Bronze Monuments
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The Hiser (Heiser) monument:
In our statue, the sand was not emptied from the head before attaching it to the rest of the body. Moisture seeped into the head and was absorbed into the sand. When it froze, it expanded and began to force the head sections apart. Over the years, this process continued, creating large cracks and gaps. (When we removed the statue from the rest of the monument, we also discovered that the head had no weep holes or openings into the rest of the body, so the sand and the water were trapped in the head.)
I searched for someone capable and willing to do the restoration work. I went to the AIC website, http://www.conservation-us.org/ , looking for someone who understood the science of zinc, the uniqueness of Monumental Bronze’s zinc, the artistry of the statue, and the history of the monument within the family. After that came the concerns about distance and money.
I sent photos of the damage to probably a dozen conservators, as well as calling cemeteries to ask if they had ever had repairs done to any of their zinc monuments, and I even called local sheet metal businesses to see if they had any ideas. Once I found a few conservators that were willing to take on the project at a price I thought I could manage, I sent an email to Carol Grissom at the Smithsonian to see if she could recommend any of my “finalists” or if she had any tips on how to pick “the right person”. I finally decided on Scott Merritt of Germantown, NY. I sent him a barrage of photos from every possible angle to give him a better idea of what he was facing.
Since I was able to remove the statuette from the rest of the monument and take it to him, it saved me the cost of having to pay for him and an assistant to come to the cemetery, set up a scaffolding, and do hurried work over a couple of days while paying his travel expenses and hoping the weather would cooperate. Instead, we gave a donation to the cemetery in return for their help in removing the statuette from the top of the monument, (it was a lot heavier than I had anticipated) and then drove it to Scott’s, where he could work on it indoors at his leisure. While he was doing that, I was canvassing relatives for funds to help pay for the repairs. (I did get enough donations to cover about 2/3 of the estimated cost—my sister and I split the rest--but I was amazed at who supported my efforts and who didn’t. One person wanted me to just get it welded back together, and I couldn’t convince him that you can’t weld cast zinc, and soldering it with lead would leave big black lines crossing the face.)
After cleaning the sand out of the head, Scott used the slow application of heat and pressure to carefully move the pieces back into place.
He inserted metal plates into the bigger gaps in the head. These served as a backing surface for special bonding agents so he could recreate the missing pieces. This bonding agent was a material that would expand and contract at the same rate as the original zinc. Then the “new” surfaces were sculpted to blend in with the original statuette. He also drilled weep holes into the base of the head to help prevent this problem in the future.
The final cost did go a little over the quote, but the work was exquisite. He had given the quote as an estimate and taken on the job without seeing the statuette in person, so I had no problem with the price being raised due to some unexpected complications.
The finished product:
So that’s the short story about the restoration of my great-great grandparents’ Monumental Bronze zinc monument.
PS Here is a picture of Henry’s full monument and his brother’s monument.
They died 6 years apart. When I was raising money for the monument, I wrote a little booklet about Monumental Bronze Co. to give out at the family reunion to explain why our monument is so unique and worthy of their investment. At the end, I included both of these pictures with the question: “Which would you choose?” I think it’s an interesting question to consider.
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this page was last updated 18 Feb 2014
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