Conservation Process Update
In the autumn the conservators completed conservation of three additional murals: Croatian Mother Raises Her Sons for Industry, Injustice and the Croatian Family. Due to less salt damage, the conservation of these murals primarily addressed removal of surface dirt. Some local areas of salt damage were stabilized with the nanoparticles.

During cleaning of the head of Injustice.

Detail of the scales of Injustice during cleaning.

A detail during surface dirt removal
in the Croatian Family.

A detail taken during cleaning the polka dots
on the dress of the figure on the far left
of the Croatian Family.

A detail of the artist's daughter's face --
Peggy -- in the Croatian Family.

A detail of the Croatian Family during
stabilization of fragile areas of paint.

Conference Report from Limassol, Cyprus
by Rikke Foulke

Nanoparticles for Stabilization
of Salts in St. Nicholas Church
[click to view PDF]

The conference in Limassol, Cyprus was the second international conference on the topic of Salt Weathering on Buildings and Stone Sculptures. The first conference was held in 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark. This year's conference was attended by 75 specialists on salts from 22 different countries. Most participants were material scientists, conservators of stone, and conservation chemists who focus on preservation of heritage sites. There were some petrologists, archaeologists and two other paintings conservators, one who specializes in the treatment of wall paintings. Ioannis Ioannou and Magdalini Theodoridou from the University of Cyprus organized and hosted the conference. Keynote speakers were Andrea Hamilton from the University of Edinburg and Ákos Török from the Budapest University of Technology, Hungary. Bernard Smith from the University of Belfast was scheduled as a keynote speaker, as well, but he was unable to attend the conference (read full Report as PDF, click here).

Restoration Update -- July 2011

The conservators completed treatment of the first three murals, The Pieta, Mati, and Croatian Mothers raise their sons for war. Efflorescence of the murals were stabilized using nanoparticles and traditional Italian methods, which chemically converted materials back into a stable surface. Areas of damage were retouched to integrate losses into healthy surrounding ares of the mural. Materials for retouching were selected based on principles of conservation. The retouching materials would not introduce possible weaknesses, would remain easily reversible, and would remain permeable to water so that salts could not be trapped under the surface again.

An overall image of the damage prior to conservation treatment, without scaffold.

Detail of an area damaged by salts.

The same area after stabilization of the salts and retouching.

Details of an area damaged by salts on Mati.

Same area after stabilization of salts, removal of surface dirt, filling large losses and retouching.

Due to the highly textured surface of Croatian Mothers raise their sons for war, fine brushes were used to lift dirt from low recesses.

Removal of the heavy surface dirt dramatically improved the visual presentation of the mural.

Restoration Update -- May 2011

The conservation team has been addressing a couple different issues in the murals, namely cleaning the surface to lift decades of accumulated dirt and stabilizing areas damaged by salts.

The conservators are surface cleaning the mural "Croatian Mothers Raise Their Sons for War" (above) and are using water in an emulsion to safely lift the dirt from the delicate surface. The cleaning emulsion is applied with a brush and removed with small, hand-rolled cotton swabs.

An area during cleaning is represented in the above pictures. The right third of the coffin has been cleaned and the area of the hillside with crosses to the right of the candle has been cleaned. Dirt remains on the surface to the left of these treated passages.

An area of the hillside with crosses after additional cleaning. The distinction between treated and untreated surfaces lies in the first third of the hillside.

Dirt removed from the wall is collected in the cleaning emulsion and deposited on a paper towel. Soiled emulsion is found on the left half of the paper towel. The treated area is cleaned with swabs, which also lift dirt; these soiled swabs are on the right half of the paper towel.

The conservation team is also concerned with stabilization of salts that resulted in 2004 from water infiltration damage by Hurricane Ivan. Structural repairs to the church were made in 2008, but results of water penetrating through the building structure left efflorescence on surfaces of murals, which appear as a white, powdery substance. These images were taken in 2008, long prior to the current conservation campaign.

The conservators have been working with Italian chemist, Dr. Piero Baglioni (above right), to stabilize and treat the salts. The conservators apply poultices to salts for their safe removal, thus preventing further damage. This method of treatment also re-adheres healthy material back to the surface. Baglioni isadvising the team on the use of nanoparticles to effectively treat the salts.

In the fall conservators were working on the murals Pieta and Mati. Some areas made unstable by damage due to efflorescence were stabilized with conservation-quality adhesives. The secure areas were able to be cleaned. Although the mural surface is delicate, conservators were able to clean Mati with aqueous cleaning solutions.

Right side of chains around knees of Mati cleaned.
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Fiorini
[Click for larger view]

Area of waist with bottom edge remaining uncleaned.
Photo courtesy of Rhonda Wozniak
[Click for larger view]

Detail during cleaning of the head of Mother Croatia on the cross.
Photo courtesy of Patricia Buss
[Click for larger view]

Conservators progressed to treatment of the mural Croatian Mothers Raise their Sons for War. This mural exhibits less damage from salts and is structurally more stable than Pieta and Mati. Some structurally fragile areas are found along the left side of the mural; this condition appears to be due to the presence of the radiator at the base of the wall, which subjects the wall to locally fluctuating temperatures. Although the general condition is better than Mati, the painted surface is more sensitive to the aqueous cleaning solution.

In late fall and winter the conservators worked with colleagues at the University of Delaware, Getty Conservation Institute, and conservators in private practice to develop new safe and viable methods of cleaning the sensitive surface of Croatian Mothers Raise their Sons for War. After numerous tests, the conservators found a new material to safely clean the surface.

Testing the new solutions.
Photo courtesy of Rikke Foulke
[Click for larger view]

After testing.
Photo courtesy of Rikke Foulke
[Click for larger view]

The cleaning swabs with dirt removed from the mural.
Photo courtesy of Rikke Foulke
[Click for larger view]

Interested in finding more effective ways to treat areas of efflorescence, the conservators consulted with colleagues who have developed new methods to stabilize damaging salts in historic buildings. David Campbell and Matt Smith of West Penn Testing Group carried out analysis of the efflorescence to help determine the content of the salts present on walls. Colleagues from local institutions helped the effort by supplying small samples of materials necessary to carry out preliminary tests to determine whether the murals were good candidates for the new treatment.

Salts before treatment.
Photo courtesy of Rikke Foulke
[Click for larger view]

In the course of testing.
Photo courtesy of Rikke Foulke
[Click for larger view]

Salts after stabilization, but prior to last step removing blanching from surface.
Photo courtesy of Rikke Foulke
[Click for larger view]

Above photo credits: Sam Iusi

Mati 1941 Panel
photo credits: Patricia Buss

The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka is a nonprofit public supported historic art preservation organization, tax exempt under Section 501 (c) (3) IRC. Donations are federal income tax deductible for those who itemize their deductions.
Copyright 2012 The Society to Preserve Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka