Conservation of Five Copper Courthouse Figures

Hampton, IA

In October 2016 we completed a condition assessment survey of five (5) copper sculptures, which adorn the Franklin County Courthouse. The sculptures exhibited atmospheric soiling and bird guano, superficial oxidation of copper skin, iron corrosion staining, failed soldered seams, detachment of internal armature, deformation of sculptural elements, and loss of sheet metal at the base of the plinths.

Following the assessment, we were contracted to remove and treat the sculptures. The goals of the treatment were to stabilize the internal armature systems, restore the structural integrity of the copper substrate, reestablish the visual unity through localized repairs and spot patination, and reinstall sculptures atop the Franklin County Courthouse

The sculptures were documented, soft-packed and transported to us’s facility in Maryland. The sculptures were cleaned overall to remove soiling, remnant coating layers, and loose corrosion using a dilute anionic detergent in water. After cleaning, the wood bases were removed to allow access to the internal steel “stovepipes”, which were structurally reinforced; rusted internal elements were treated with a cleaner/degreaser, and a rust-inhibiting primer. The copper sheets were re-patinated to a medium brown using various concentrations and successive solutions of patina chemicals. To protect the metal substrates from oxidizing, two protective wax coatings were applied to form a barrier between the metal and the environment. Once the treatment was completed, the sculptures were soft-packed, transported to Iowa, and hoisted to the courthouse roof using two cranes.