Libraries Society of North America 31st Annual Conference
Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland - March 20-26, 2003
Christine Hennessey, Chief, Art Information Resources, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Susan Nichols, Director Save Outdoor Sculpture! program, Heritage Preservation, Inc.
Helen Ingalls, Objects Conservator, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Kathleen G. Kotarba, Executive Director, Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) & SOS! Coordinator, Baltimore City
Recorder: Christine Hennessey, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Outdoor sculpture –
the most accessible form of history and art found in virtually every community
in America – is in peril, suffering from the extremes of weather, pollution,
vandalism and neglect. The goal of
the session was to introduce the audience to our nation’s largest art
collection and raise awareness about the need to care for these works of art.
Susan Nichols began
the session with a visual slide tour highlighting many of America’s
outdoor sculptures. As program director for Save Outdoor Sculpture!. Mrs. Nichols
worked with over 106 cooperating institutions partners and 7,000 regional
volunteers who located, documented, photographed and assessed the condition of
outdoor in their communities. Over
32,000 outdoor sculptures were surveyed through the SOS! program and
descriptions of these sculptures are now available as part of the Smithsonian
American Art Museum’s comprehensive Inventory of American Sculpture database,
accessible at: http://www.siris.si.edu/saam.htm
Nichol’s talk revealed, monuments and memorials are story magnets.
Beginning with her opening slide of Alphonso Pelzer’s colossal “Hermann the Cheruscan” (erected 1899, New Ulm, Minnesota), she
raised questions about the role outdoor public art plays in this country,
asking: Who put that there and why? Who
decides what and who will be honored? She
revealed intriguing stories about statues found throughout the country
(Hawaii’s 3 statues of King Kamehameha) and examined how the meanings of
memorials can change over time (Louisiana’s Liberty Monument).
surprisingly, the largest segment of outdoor sculpture in this country was done
to commemorate those who lost their lives in war.
Second in frequency are statutes of prominent male leaders.
Fewer than 200 sculptures in this country feature “peace” as a theme
and only 300 sculptures depict women. Among
the earliest memorials to women in this country is a New Orleans (Louisiana)
statue of Margaret Haughery, erected in 1884 in recognition of “the bread
women who used her bakery fortune to construct orphanages and assists other
widows.” Troy, New York is home
to an 1895 statue of Emma Hart Willard, champion of women’s education; and the
North Dakota State Capitol in Bismarck boasts a statue of Sakakawea, the famed
Lewis & Clark Shoshone Indian guide.
Nichols stated, memorials reinforce America’s need to remember and revere.
Public sculpture offers a response to triumph and tragedy and provides an
outlet for emotional relief, as demonstrated by more contemporary memorials such
as that commemorating those who lost their lives in the 1995 Oklahoma City
bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Ingalls, the second speaker, is an Objects Conservator at the Smithsonian
American Art Museum. Her slide show detailed the kinds of damage outdoor sculpture
is subject to. Bronze
statues, comprised of a thin shell only a few millimeters thick, are subject to
corrosion and pitting. Structural
problems can result from unstable internal armatures, and stress caused by
cracked joints, missing mortar, breaks, splits and holes.
can result from accumulation of black or white crusts from water seepage;
organic growth deposits from overhanging trees; and acid runoff.
Metal surfaces can become etched and pitted.
Stone exposed to the outdoors often exhibits chalky and sugaring
surfaces; exhibits more severe spalling losses, and discoloration from sulfide
runoff. Ingalls pointed out
examples of inherent vice or design flaws that contribute to premature
deterioration. Her talk ended with
a brief overview of different stages of conservation work (from walnut shell
blasting to hot wax treatments). She
stressed the importance of stewardship (a community adopting its sculptures), of
involving professional conservators, and providing routine maintenance to slow
deterioration and to provide the best odds for survival.
final speaker Kathleen Kotarba brought the session back to Baltimore
highlighting five key monuments in the city and her own agencies’ quest to
assume responsibility for the long term care and preservation of the city’s
outdoor collections. Nicknamed the Monument City by John Quincy Adams in 1827, Baltimore is home to
this country’s earliest war memorial: the Battle
Monument erected in honor of those who gave their lives in the War of 1812;
and Baltimore is also home to this country’s first monument to George
Washington, a 178 foot tall shaft topped by a statue of Washington.
Begun in 1815, both memorials stand in Mount Vernon Square, the city’s
first historic district. Kotarba’s talk also highlighted several Bayre
sculptures placed by William T. Walters (namesake of the Walters Art Museum),
the Pulaski Monument in Patterson Park
and the Francis Scott Key Memorial.
Of note, Baltimore is the first city to create a program (the Bronze
Project) to maintain its municipally owned outdoor monuments.
addition to the speakers, a detailed bibliography of Guidebooks
and Online Resources for Outdoor Sculpture was distributed.
For those not able to attend the session, more information on the Save
Outdoor Sculpture! program can be found at: www.HeritagePreservation.org.
To obtain a copy of the outdoor sculpture bibliography, send a request by
email to the Smithsonian American Art Museum at email@example.com.