Alma Mater Restoration & History

Aug 06, 2013
The University of Illinois sculpture group entitled Alma Mater, is undergoing a complete restoration.

Conservation Firm

Alma Mater Restoration
  • The full restoration will be done by Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio (CSOS) of Forest Park, Illinois.
  • The lead conservator at CSOS is Andrzej Dajnowski.
  • Dajnowski restored Lorado Taft’s Fountain of Time in Hyde Park.
  • The studio was selected through the Request for Proposal process administered by the University of Illinois Purchasing Division.
  • The restoration will take place in the studio’s 13,000 square-feet facility.

Removal of the Alma Mater

  • Removal of the sculpture was supervised by CSOS.
  • Methods & Materials Inc. and Custom Service Crane prepared, lifted and transported the sculpture.
  • The Alma Mater was removed from its granite base and transported to the CSOS facility on Tuesday, August 7, 2012.

Sculpture History

  • The Alma Mater was created by Illinois alumnus Lorado Taft. Taft received his bachelor’s in 1879 and master’s in 1880.
  • The sculpture was unveiled on Alumni Day, June 11, 1929 and was paid for by the alumni fund and the classes of 1923-29.
  • Originally the statue was placed south of Foellinger Auditorium on a granite base.
  • After thirty-three years at Foellinger Auditorium, the entire sculpture with its base was relocated in 1962 to its present location at the intersection of Wright and Green Streets.
  • In 1981, the sculpture was showing signs of fatigue and deterioration. Under the supervision of Robert Youngman, Art Department professor, the sculpture was removed from the base in two sections for repairs.
  • These repairs consisted of strengthening sections with internal armatures; replacing rusted bolts, “caulking” the joints with sealants, and spraying the piece with a rust inhibitor.

Sculpture Details

Alma Mater
  • The sculpture is comprised of a group of four bronze elements:
  • Alma Mater, “Our Mother,” a standing woman with out-stretched arms welcoming her children;
  • “Labor,” a standing iron worker wearing a leather apron;
  • the klismos (throne) behind Alma Mater;
  • and “Learning,” a young classically draped modification of Athena Lemnia
  • The sculpture incorporated the motto of the University – “Learning and Labor.”
  • The Alma Mater stands 13-feet tall on top of the granite base.
  • Cast in 30 sections by American Art Bronze Foundry and Jules Berchem and Sons of Chicago and then bolted together.