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.

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.