Alma Mater Returns - April 9, 2014

  • The Alma Mater returned to campus after spending more than 600 days in the Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio (CSOS) in Forest Park, IL. Prior to that trip, The Alma Mater had never left the Urbana campus.
  • For downloadable images, videos, and interviews with the conservator please visit:

The Return

  • On April 8, 2014, the Alma Mater was lifted out of the CSOS, placed on a trailer, and stored in a secure facility overnight to prepare for transport back to campus.
  • Reinstallation of the sculpture at Alma Mater Plaza took approximately three hours.
  • Prior to the sculpture’s return, lead conservator Andrzej Dajnowski performed both internal and external waxing to help seal the sculpture. Dajnowski heated up the bronze, using a propane torch, to a temperature that would melt the wax from a solid state into the surface of the bronze. Waxing will be performed periodically on the sculpture as routine maintenance.
  • Dajnowski also replaced the internal bracing that reinforces the sculpture on the granite pedestal.
  • While the Alma Mater was at the CSOS, Dajnowski received numerous visitors to the studio who just stopped by because they wanted to take a look or have their picture taken with the Alma Mater.

Change in Work Scope

  • The final cost of the Alma Mater conservation work was $359,212. The project was paid for with gifts from alumni and friends to the Chancellor’s Fund.
  • The sculpture was originally scheduled to be returned to campus by May 4, 2013, but years of water damage and corrosion affected the structural integrity of the sculpture and the repairs were more extensive than originally thought. The expanded scope of work cost $259,250.
  • X-rays of the sculpture were performed the CSOS to determine the structural integrity of the bolts and joints. At that time, Dajnowski was able to determine that 60- 80% of the bolts had deteriorated.  

Conservation Details

  • Laser cleaning left a stable layer of oxides on the surface. By removing what was corroded the laser cleaning created a new protective layer on the Alma Mater.
  • A light chemical surface patina was added to the Alma Mater to bring out the luster of the bronze. Dajnowski wanted to keep the natural color variety and depth that was found on the sculpture after cleaning, still showing polished areas of wear.
  • To begin disassembly of the sculpture, the heads were the eventual starting point because they were put on last. Labor had to be completely taken apart to facilitate bolt replacement because of the smaller size of that part of the sculpture.
  • At the CSOS, the Alma Mater was kept elevated several feet off of the floor so workers could remove and reinstall the bolts inside side of the sculpture. The Alma Mater needed to be lowered from this position first before it could be lifted out of the studio.
  •  Before the disassembly process, Dajnowski used epoxy as a mold for making impressions of any gaps. Those molds were cast in bronze and to be put in place during reassembly. All of the inserts were custom made and welded to the section of the sculpture that could be taken apart.
  • More than 1,000 bolts were replaced on the Alma Mater with all of the iron elements on the inside of the sculpture removed. Iron and bronze don’t last together due to the galvanic corrosion process.
  • Dajnowski ordered special replacement bolts made of silicon bronze that are comparable to stainless steel in strength. Because the composition of the sculpture and bolts are now similar, Dajnowski says the bolts shouldn’t need replacement.

Alma Comparison image

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Alma Mater Head Bases

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