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Materials I: “Performance-based Evaluation of Materials & Methods for Monument Conservation”

Norman R. Weiss and Irving Slavid

This paper discusses laboratory and field studies undertaken by the authors to determine and/or predict the effectiveness of a range of stone conservation treatments used in historic cemeteries. The techniques utilized to evaluate treatment efficacy range from laboratory instrumentation to inexpensive, low-tech procedures (such as tape testing) that are suited to being performed on site.

The choice of particular materials and methods involves a surprising variety of parameters, including ease of use, which is often related to the conservator’s level of skill. Manufacturers’ recommendations and product cost also play significant roles in the selection process. In most situations, the decision to accept a treatment (and to use it extensively) is only based on an initial sense of success, related to appearance upon completion of the remedial work, or to short-term behavior without obvious failure.

When systematic testing is done prior to product selection, another problem is encountered: the lack of deteriorated stone from which to produce specimens for comparative laboratory assessment. The authors will discuss the use of small specimens (derived from weathered building materials) in their work, presenting information on breaking strength and ultrasound measurement.

Ultimately, however, the key issue is that of performance, that is, long-term behavior in service. Most experts agree that the best approach to studying performance is periodic inspection. Cemeteries, essentially arrays of stone outdoors, lend themselves to this concept, if stone conservation efforts are thoroughly and systematically documented, and if we come together as a community to share information on product performance.

But even experienced practitioners seldom return to re-examine their work years later, nor do most of us have the patience to wait for such long periods of time to fine-tune our conservator’s bag of tricks. Accelerated weathering tests (such as freeze/thaw and acid rain simulation) will be reviewed in this presentation, and compared with observations made on technical aspects of the authors’ fieldwork over the past decade.

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4 Responses to Nationwide Cemetery Preservation Summit Abstracts and Video

  1. [...] View Current Schedule and Abstracts [...]

  2. Robert Wrigley says:

    My wife’s gr-gr-grandfather is a Union soldier buried there. When we visited this grave site last October we were quite dismayed at the condition and damage done to the stones by lawn mowers running over and chipping it. At the time we did not know the full history of the markers being altered in the 1930s. We would fully support the efforts to restore them.
    Would it be possible for a private citizen to be able to contribute to the restoration of their family’s marker or replacement? Perhaps a volunteer effort of those with relatives there could help accomplish some of this initiative to restore to their original condition.

    • Jason Church says:

      Dear Robert,
      The best person to talk with will be Betsy Dinger Elizabeth_Dinger@nps.gov who is a historian for Petersburg National Battlefield and Cemetery.

    • Bryan Cheeseboro says:

      Mr. Wrigley,
      I don’t know if you’ll get this message but I would be very interested to know which of the men buried at Battleground Cemetery is your wife’s gr-gr-grandfather. I am a historian and I have spent the last several years researcing the battle of Fort Stevens and Battleground National Cemetery. Does your wife have a photograph of her ancestor? That would be a goldmine. I have never seen any picture of any of the men killed at the battle.

      If you can be of help to me, my e-mail address is bryanac625@yahoo.com. Thank you.

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