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Stone Conservation:

In 1908 Scottish-American sculptor J.M. Rhind carved four Tennessee pink marble sculptures representing Industry, Agriculture, Literature and Justice for the front of the Birch Bayh Federal Building in Indianapolis, Indiana. 101 years later McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory undertook a thorough condition survey of the John Massey Rhind sculptures in preparation for treatment.

The gradual decay of these uniquely beautiful statues is related directly to the adverse impact of water in the outdoor environment and poor quality of the stone. Structural flaws, known as stylolites, are the immediate cause of their accelerated disintegration. Each sculpture exhibits a large number of stylolites in the form of irregular veins running across the block of stone. The stylolites contain various insoluble minerals, including iron. Oxidation turns the iron to rust that bleeds out and stains the surface of the sculpture. Also, the marble in stylolite-adjacent areas is particularly friable and prone to crumbling. Each sculpture exhibited numerous small-size losses of the original surface, as well as a large number of deep cracks and fissures. These cracks made the sculptures particularly vulnerable to water damage.

The original right forearm of the sculpture representing Justice had been completely damaged at some point in the past and later recreated in mineral mortar. Providing a stone-carved replica of the forearm was one of the goals of the treatment.

All four sculptures were cleaned using a hot water pressure washer and a biocide. The weakened structure of the stone was consolidated with a hydroxylating agent known as HCT. All the sculptures were additionally treated with a siloxane-based stone strengthener. The rust-bleeding stylolites were removed with chisels and grinders. The marble surface losses were recreated with a specialty limestone restoration mortar. The cracks and fissures were injected with a lime-based microinjection mortar and injection grout.

The existing composite forearm of the Justice was removed and sent to the studio of Nick Fairplay of Fairplay Stonecarvers LLC in Oberlin, Ohio, where a new forearm and hammer handle were carved in a block of Tennessee pink marble. The newly carved forearm was installed on the sculpture using epoxy adhesive and stainless steel pins.

The sculptures were treated by Cleveland area art conservation center McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory in 2011 and 2012. UPDATE: Click here to read about the latest treatment to Massey’s sculptures at the Birch Bayh Federal Building in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2018.

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