Restoring a Monument: Victorious Soldier
Posted July 29, 2021
Topics: MilitaryHistoric Preservation

By Lesley Polling, Registrar

If you have ever visited the Ohio History Center, you may recall the impressive statue of a soldier towering over the green mound as you made your way to the entrance. Sculpted by Bruce Wilder Saville, Victorious Soldier portrays a WWI infantryman, often referred to as a “Doughboy,” proudly returning from battle. Saville, himself a veteran of WWI, was appointed head of the sculpture department at The Ohio State University in 1921. This sculpture was commissioned by the State of Ohio in 1924, and is stewarded by the Ohio History Connection.

Over the years, the sculpture has undergone several conservation treatments to mitigate damage from exposure to the elements. In 2016, staff again identified it as a candidate for treatment. While the sculpture and base themselves remain structurally stable, there were many condition issues to contend with due to it being an outdoor monument.

This before image show the sculpture’s heavy green corrosion and the excess run-off that has leached into the limestone base, causing discoloration and copper staining.

This before image show the sculpture’s heavy green corrosion and the excess run-off that has leached into the limestone base, causing discoloration and copper staining.

Image courtesy of Ohio History Connection

Sculpted by Bruce Wilder Saville, Victorious Soldier portrays a WWI infantryman, often referred to as a “Doughboy,” proudly returning from battle

This image shows the statue after conservation was completed.

Image courtesy of Ohio History Connection

After the project proposal received approval, Craig Henry, Architect and Preservation Coordinator at The Ohio State University, secured funding to move forward with the treatment. McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory Inc. located in Oberlin, Ohio, was selected for the project and began work on March 29th of this year. Over the course of almost three weeks, Christina L. Simms, Conservator of Objects and Sculpture, Marcin Pikus, Conservator of Stone Sculpture and Architectural Features, diligently worked on the nearly 100-year-old monument.

The work took place on-site, under containment. Simms used a trusted technique of water mixed with a fine abrasive to blast the sculpture, gradually reducing surface corrosion on the bronze and taking it back to its bare state. After this mixture was removed from the surface, she applied chemical patination with heat. Through this process, she was able to return the bronze to its statuary brown color. This is how the sculpture would have looked when it was fabricated. With the desired color achieved, a protective coating of microcrystalline wax was applied with heat and brushed all over the bronze. The wax layer helps protect the bronze and patina of the sculpture. It also aids in preventing future excess corrosion from leaching into, and staining, the base.

With treatment of the sculpture completed, Marcin Pikus focused on the limestone base. All mortar from the joints was removed and the stone chemically treated in order to remove any natural material that had grown.  Limestone is highly porous, so Pikus used repeated applications of cleaning products to decrease the staining as much as possible. After several cycles, the staining was drastically reduced. To repoint the joints, he used a preservation mortar and, lastly, caulked the seam between the base and pavement.

The conservators worked under this containment area. The outline of their scaffolding system surrounding the sculpture is visible.

The conservators worked under this containment area. The outline of their scaffolding system surrounding the sculpture is visible.

Images courtesy of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory Inc.
Images courtesy of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory Inc.

Images courtesy of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory Inc.

Images courtesy of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory Inc.
Images courtesy of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory Inc.

For additional images and information about this project, visit this post written by the conservators.

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