Alma Mater statue to be taken off campus for repairs, cleaning

The University’s Alma Mater statue will be moved off campus for potentially up to a year.

According to a press release, a private firm was recently approved to repair the sculpture for $99,962. Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio Inc., of Forest Park, Ill., will remove the Alma Mater sculpture after commencement with hopes for it to return before May 4, 2013. According to Melvyn Skvarla, the campus historic preservation officer, the base will most likely remain empty.

“(The restoration) will strengthen the interior (of the sculpture) so it can stand another hundred years or more,” Skvarla said in a press release.

Damage includes the face of the Alma Mater statue streaked in green patina, or tarnish caused by oxidizing copper, and parts of the throne splotched in black and white. Skvarla said this may be due to environmental effects, air pollution and defacement. In addition, cracks in the arms, backs and necks of the three figures of the sculpture have developed since its dedication in 1929.

“She could actually be seriously damaged if someone were to climb on her at this point,” said Jennifer Hain Teper, a conservation librarian and chair of the Preservation Working Group in a press release.

The studio approved will disassemble the sculpture to decide what repairs will be made and run a chemical analysis of the sculpture’s surface corrosion.

The University has not yet decided whether the sculpture will return to its natural bronze color or keep its current green state.

“It’s just like when they cleaned the buildings at the Louvre,” Skvarla said in a press release. “They were a dirty black limestone and when they cleaned them and they were white, people were first startled and eventually liked it. And so (with the Alma Mater), you get used to seeing it one way, but that’s not really the authentic way it was when it was at its high point.”