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Building Conservation Associates

Religious Liberty Statue

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Year Installed: 1876
Original Artist: Moses Ezekiel

The Religious Liberty Statue conservation marks BCA’s first project, and the details of the treatment are noteworthy for the field of outdoor art conservation.

S.A.T, Inc., and BCA (in consultation with Dr. George Wheeler) were commissioned by B’nai B’rith to move the statue to the National Museum of American Jewish History, near the Liberty Bell, and to conserve/restore it. The statue was originally installed in 1876, during America’s Industrial Revolution and the calcareous Carrara marble was susceptible to acidic atmospheric pollution.  Its decay accelerated over the next century, so the conservators were presented with the problem of cleaning it without further erosion of the surface, restoring missing parts and arresting the process of decay due to the pollution.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1876, Religious Liberty was unveiled in Fairmount Park, where it stood until 1984, when it was moved for this project.

Responding to the challenges posed by the stone's deterioration, the conservators formulated and executed a comprehensive conservation and relocation plan. This initiative ensured the preservation of Religious Liberty and a safe route to its new home. Work involved cleaning, carving missing features, and chemical consolidation with a low viscosity alkoxy silane. This was the first use of a commercially marketed chemical consolidant: Conservare OH 100, on a work of art in the United States.

The work was personally executed by Ray Pepi of BCA and Steve Tatti of S.A.T., Inc. The statue has since been moved once again to a new location in Philadelphia.