Alma Mater Sculpture

Columbia University, New York, NY

The Alma Mater sculpture that sits on the steps of Low Memorial Library was designed by sculptor Daniel Chester French in 1901, and formally unveiled in 1903. We were contracted to clean, repair, and repoint the Milford Pink granite and Rosso Antico marble and to treat the bronze sculpture.

The sculpture was in relatively good condition thanks to annual maintenance executed by university personnel. However, a pigmented wax coating that had been applied during an earlier conservation effort had imposed an inappropriately dark coloration on the statue, obscuring its original patina. In addition, the base of the statue suffered from patches of biological growth and atmospheric soiling. A handful of areas had breaks or cracks in the stone and several previous fills had failed.

Masonry surfaces were cleaned of biological growth and atmospheric soiling, and stone repairs were carried out using Jahn Restoration mortars and grouts. In addition, dutchman repairs were performed on the granite and marble bases. Work on the bronze statue included removal of the existing coating and loose corrosion using waterjets, spot repatination and the application of a protective wax coating.

In 2009, we were contracted by Columbia University to provide additional treatment to the statue. This treatment included hot-wax restoration to failed areas, a cold-applied wax topcoat which was then buffed. The stone base was cleaned, documented and inspected.