Marble Conservation

The New York Public Library Statuary–Marble Deterioration & Conservation

12th International Congress on the Deterioration and Conservation of Stone
Columbia University, New York, NY

Authors: Mark Rabinowitz & John Carr

Created by 4 different sculptors, the marble sculptures at the New York Public Library’s east façade demonstrate how a variety of styles (Classical, Impressionist, Baroque, and idiosyncratic) and diversity of marbles (Vermont, Georgia, Tennessee and Carrera) could unify within the program of a well-designed Beaux Arts building. The different stones and exposures lead to different degrees of deterioration and, ultimately divergent treatment goals. While initially the most deferential conservation plan targeted to maximum preservation of existing materials and minimal intervention was planned, the dramatically different conditions, ranging from modest weathering to catastrophic loss, led to introducing a more restoration oriented approach for some of the treatments. These variations in treatment goals were accomplished using high standards in collaborations between several conservators and cleaning specialists. The session will present some history of the sculptures and their creators, the initial survey and study methods, implementation of the laser and other specialized cleaning methods, innovative stone repairs, and how the conditions of the pediment statuary lead to the choice for substantial reconstruction over the more modest stabilization of the statuary applied elsewhere. Ultimately, theoretical questions of where and how these choices should be made, and why they may differ dramatically even at the same site, will be discussed.