Continued from part 2.
Stoneangels: What are some of the larger projects you’re involved in?
Kreilick: I’ve been asked to establish a conservation plan by the Hollywood Cemetery, in Richmond, Va. They’ve got some fabulous monuments–a wonderful pyramid to the Confederate dead–the Confederate soldiers who died at Gettysburg were re-interred there, two American presidents are buried there (Monroe and Tyler), Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy… J.E.B Stuart is there, and George Pickett of Pickett’s Charge fame.
They’re really on the front end of the curve with their conservation planning. In determining how much work needs to be done, my job is to offer them this plan of Four Steps:
- The recording of all the inscriptions
- Survey of plot land
- All monuments assessed and prioritized for their conservation needs
- Determine costs involved, create a budget for the next 5 years
I’ll be going there next week to determine their immediate conservation needs, like seeing which marble statues need to be consolidated…
Kreilick: The first sign that marble is wearing away is the white powder that forms on the surface, what we call “sugaring.” That’s the calcium binder, or glue-like material that holds the grains of marble together. If you look at marble under a microscope, you’ll see grains of stone that look like they’re bonded together with strands of glue. What happens over time, you lose the glue. We apply a chemical that is absorbed by the stone and reintroduces a glue, or binder, back into the stone and hardens it. It stops the dissolution of the stone. That’s a very complicated type of intervention. It’s aggressive, and the conservator uses it sparingly.
“It’s important in conservation to know how not to clean too much.”
Stoneangels: What other techniques do you use?
Kreilick: You might have a monument dealer resetting a stone, or a conservator re-pinning a stone that’s been fragmented, back together again. If on the other hand simple cleaning is needed, a mild detergent, garden hose-pressure water and a soft-bristle brush will do the trick. Volunteers are the perfect resource for this type of conservation. And we will train them. I’ve used student interns from the Savannah College of Art and Design – Masters candidates in Historic Preservation under the supervision of a trained conservator. They’re a great resource.
It’s important in conservation to know how not to clean too much. Like they say on the Antiques Road Show, ‘If you had not cleaned it, it would be worth more.’ If you overclean something, you take away original material.
One of the things we’ve tried to do with volunteers is establish training days at cemeteries. We may have the participant or the cemetery hosting it pay a fee to cover our costs. The National Park Service has a very good cemetery workshop program, but it’s several hundred dollars for a 3-day session and is designed primarily for professionals. Ours would be less expensive.
Stoneangels: We’ve covered the technical aspects of conservation. What other aspects are there?
Kreilick: Ownership. Individual cemetery monuments owned by the family. Laurel Hill is not empowered to hire someone to fix a monument. They belong to the family. For the Harry Wright (the father of baseball) monument over at West Laurel Hill, we had to contact his daughters to get permission to work on the monument. I could put myself in a precarious situation without written consent. If I work on a piece and it loses value, then I’m liable. I have to carry Fine Arts Insurance and liability insurance for pieces I work on in my studio or if they’re damaged in transit.
Another aspect of all my projects is that there’s some element of education involved–making the clients aware of what they’re asking me to do and coming to some understanding of what they’re going to get. It’s very important and good business practice.
Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org