Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Asheville, NC

Our conservators worked with the City of Asheville, NC, to provide conservation treatment for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial within Martin Luther King Park. The sculpture is a life-sized bronze figure of Martin Luther King holding the hand of a small girl, whilst a small boy holds his pant leg. King’s right arm is outstretched in a welcoming gesture to come together. The figures are raised above the ground surface on a cast concrete base.

The existing wax coating was showing signs of deterioration and failure. There were localized areas of light green corrosion that was visible primarily on the feet, heads, and necks, and anywhere water collected. Additionally, bird guano hastened the deterioration of the protective coating in several locations. The old wax coating was removed through a combination of steam and solvent cleaning. The sculpture was cleaned using a gentle detergent and thoroughly rinsed, a detergent with a corrosion inhibitor was applied, allowed to dwell, and rinsed. Areas with corrosion were further cleaned with small detail brushes and nylon pads. Following cleaning, the protective coating was renewed. The sculpture was heated with a propane torch; any existing wax was melted and redistributed. A custom formulated National Park Service (NPS) standard wax with added corrosion inhibitors was applied using natural bristle brushes applied to heated surfaces. After the sculpture cooled, an additional coating of cold paste wax was applied, allowed to dry, and thoroughly buffed with cactus hair buffing wheels and polishing hand brushes.