Collections care and conservation are part of the everyday museum work that typically occurs behind the scenes. In the summer of 2017, two bronze sculptures by Augustus Saint-Gaudens—Labor Supported by Art and Science and Law Supported by Power and Love, also known as the Boston Public Library Groups—were due for cleaning and restoration after twenty years of exposure in the Freer courtyard.
With temperatures soaring into the upper 90s on three sweltering days in July, conservators worked outside on the north plaza of the Freer Gallery. They cleaned the sculptures with solid carbon dioxide, or dry ice, to remove old wax treatments, build-up, and decades of residue. After they reinforced unstable areas on the sculptures, they used propane torches to apply a protective wax coating. Riggers and conservators collaborated to reinstall the sculptures in the Freer courtyard, where visitors can now enjoy Saint-Gaudens’s work for years to come.
This project was made possible through the generous support of the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.