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Subject: Stone sculpture

Stone sculpture

From: Ebenezer Nsiah Kotei <kotei>
Date: Monday, September 28, 1998
Thank you [Barbara Appelbaum] for replying to my enquiry on stone
sculpture. Till this day I have not received any private mail
advising me to stay away from stone sculpture and I have not
received any giving me any helpful hints either. In fact yours was
the first I have received and I was very disappointed by it.

I do not think that the nature of the enquiry itself portrayed my
total ignorance on the subject of stone sculpture as you mentioned.
It was a straight forward question seeking advice on how other
conservators would approach this problem, tempering conservation
issues with clients demands which we conservators have to deal with
all the time. I have seen stone sculpture treated with surface
consolidants which, because they only penetrate to shallow depths
only, have caused surface flaking of the consolidated surface
crusts, thereby removing from the stone what would have been better
left unconsolidated. Consolidants like silanes work better for
sandstones and other less dense materials but not so well for
limestone. Silathanes have been proposed but I have not seen it
used. The last conservator I spoke to was scared to use anything. In
fact the issue of limestone consolidation and surface protection,
and whether or not it should be undertaken, what should be used etc.
is, in my opinion, still a hot topic. You probably didn't know that.
But the kind of "musing: that you called for in your mail, was all I
was asking for too. I did not think that asking my fellow
Conservators to share with me what they have used or done recently
should in any way showed that I know "little about the subject of
outdoor sculpture."

You picked on my use of the words "need to" and "mildly". As someone
whose first language is not English, I have been accused of using
inappropriate words when making plain, simple statements. But I do
not see why you should find these words disturbing. As Conservators
we all have some experience with making up treatments as we go
along. But it is always a good thing to start with a sound plan of
approach and make up for the unexpected surprises as we go along.

I took a look at a stone sculpture on which people have burned car
tires during Halloween. The sculpture is stained with tar and carbon
materials and is in a sorrowful state. I definitely think that this
piece "needs" to be cleaned at least. Whether any of the decayed
details should be restored or not, and if so how far it should be
done is a legitimate question for discussion by conservators. I did
not expect that posing such a question would prompt calls for me to
stay away from outdoor sculpture.

For the information of my other fellow conservators on this forum, I
want you to know that this piece is not a lump. It is a beautiful
Indiana limestone  sculpture of Mother and Child, which is in danger
of being lost due to lack of care, total neglect and abuse. If any
of you out there think I should be kept away from stone sculpture
because I asked a stupid question, send me a private mail. I will
show you where it is so that you can go and work on it. Maybe you
can just make up treatments as you go along.

Ebenezer Kotei
Objects Conservator
Hagley Museum and Library
Wilmington, Delaware

                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:31
                Distributed: Tuesday, September 29, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-12-31-004
                                  ***
Received on Monday, 28 September, 1998

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