The builders of monuments historically have selected permanent materials, with the expectation that the memorials would last for generations. Bronze, copper and stone are traditional choices to commemorate the people and events most meaningful to us; but time, weather and soiling can obscure the details of sculpture and render inscriptions illegible. A professional assessment of conditions and a conservation treatment program followed by an ongoing maintenance routine will prolong the time our monuments convey their intended meaning.
The Maryland Military Monuments Commission obtains the services of professional conservators and historic preservation professionals to determine and carry out appropriate treatments for the monuments. The commission follows preservation standards set by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, which call for minimal, reversible treatment and retention of original materials.
Bronze sculpture and tablets in an outdoor environment are exposed to particulates in the atmosphere which settle onto, and eventually corrode, the surfaces. In urban and industrial areas the bronze may become pitted and uneven. Corrosion may follow water runoff patterns over the surface of a sculpture, forming streaks of light green and black. The Monuments Commission has chosen a program of gentle cleaning to remove loose corrosion from bronze sculpture and tablets, followed by the application of wax to the heated metal. The wax darkens the bronze, providing a more uniform color and protection from the elements. The wax coating is a maintainable and economical treatment, requiring washing and minimal touch-up every two to three years.
Stone is also affected by dirt, weathering and atmospheric pollutants; however, overcleaning or inappropriate cleaning methods may cause more damage than would generations of weather. The Monuments Commission works with conservation professionals to evaluate the condition, and to design and implement appropriate plans to clean, repair and repoint historic stone monuments.
With contributions from concerned citizens, as well as generous and ongoing support from the Maryland General Assembly, the Monuments Commission has sponsored or contributed toward conservation treatment for ninety-three military monuments and tablets to date. The treated bronzes have been placed on a maintenance program to ensure their continued preservation as a legacy to Maryland's military history.