Sculpture and monument conservation
Sculpture is one of the few kinds of visual art that is often displayed outside. Public monuments, war memorials and architectural decorations all exist outside the protective environment of the museum. This can place such pieces in often harmful situations. Even works that are kept inside can become damaged or dirty over the years.
Some of the threats faced by sculptures include:
- Pollution from burning fuels or car exhausts can cause discolouration, flaking or thick black crusts. Mixed with rainwater these pollutants form a weak acid that can dissolve marble, stone and bronze.
- Salts from groundwater or the air (if by the sea) can damage metal and stone surfaces.
- Decaying supports, plinths or armatures can make sculptures unstable.
- Vandalism, in the form of theft, damage or graffiti is unfortunately one of the commonest forms of damage to public sculptures.
- Damage caused by unsuitable storage or display methods or during transportation.
Conservator cleaning the Crewe Britannia monument
The sculpture conservation department cares for and conserves the large and varied sculpture collections of National Museums Liverpool. The collections range from ancient Egyptian and Greek pieces through to modernist works by artists such as Henry Moore and Jacob Epstein. One of the largest groups is the Ince Blundell collection of classical sculptures.
We have also provided advice to, and conserved sculpture and monuments for, a wide range of commercial clients including museums, local authorities, churches, auctioneers and private collectors. We have experience of conserving sculpture in a wide range of materials including marble, stone, terracotta, ceramic, bronze, plaster and wax.
Work is carried out in the Conservation Centre's large and well-equipped studios at the Midland Railway Building in the heart of Liverpool. The sculpture conservation studio has excellent facilities, including large floor space, cranage, lots of storage space and a range of analytical and diagnostic equipment. This means we are able to work on a wide variety of pieces, from small decorative sculptures to large public monuments.
The section has extensive experience of laser cleaning of sculpture. Lasers can remove even the thinnest layer of dirt from delicate sculptures without damaging their surface.
Cleaning a small terracotta sculpture
For further information about our work, or to discuss internship opportunities, please contact us.
Institute of Conservation