Benjamin Franklin Memorial Statue 

Franklin Institute and Science Center

HISTORIC OVERVIEW

The Ben Franklin Memorial StatueThis statue of Benjamin Franklin, located at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was designated as a national memorial by congress in 1972. The colossal statue was sculpted by James Earle Fraser between 1906 and 1911. It stands close to twenty feet tall and weighs upwards of thirty tons. The figure is made of white Seravezza marble which sits on a pedestal of Portuguese Rose Aurora marble that weighs an additional ninety-two tons. The statue is housed in a hall designed by architect John T. Windrim who modeled the memorial after the Pantheon in Greece. Benjamin Franklin, born January 17, 1706, was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and was a noted scientist, inventor, and writer. He died April 17, 1790.

PRE-TREATMENT CONDITION

Before Treatment: Dirt and GrimeThe surface of the statue was disfigured by a dark layer of embedded dirt and grime. There were several large brown and black stains observed on the front half of the plinth's horizontal surface. Additional yellowish stains were recorded on the proper right rear plane of the chair. Due to a previous restoration of the memorial, several locations on the statue had received a protective coating of a certain type of wax that had discolored and was extremely difficult to remove. The base had numerous deep scratches from visitors climbing upon the lower sections. A stain was also documented on the base which matches in size the diameter a five gallon pail that was most likely placed on the sculpture during routine floor maintenance. The area of the base that meets the floor showed an irregular splash line created from repeated waxing of the floor. The rose aurora marble, which at one point had a glossy sheen, had an etched appearance most likely as a result of previous cleanings. The grout lines all over the sculpture show signs of deterioration, discoloration, and loss. Because of the condition of the statue and base, the Franklin Institute contracted B.R. Howard & Associates, Inc. to provide specialized conservation services in order to adequately and appropriately clean and protect the Benjamin Franklin Memorial.

 

TREATMENT

During Treatment: Removal of Dirt and GrimeUpon arrival at the Memorial, B.R. Howard & Associates extensively documented the statue via high resolution digital imagery. Upon completion of the documentation, conservation of the figure and base commenced. Beginning at the bottom of the sculpture, the marble was washed with a dilute solution of specialized stone cleaner and distilled water. The solution was applied using clean natural sponges. The wetted areas were blotted dry, rinsed, and then blotted dry again. This procedure was repeated until all areas were clean. Where there were areas of ingrained dirt and grime, and where there were yellowish wax deposits, another specialized cleaning gel was applied. Again, these areas were blotted dry, rinsed with distilled water, blotted dry again, and repeated accordingly. The entire base was then cleaned again with mineral spirits which removed the remaining wax buildups. Using a combination of the cleaning gel and the mineral spirits, the area where the base meets the floor was cleaned, removing the irregular waxy line on the marble base. The surfaces of the grout were carefully removed to the depth of approximately 1/8th inch and then refilled using a proprietary gout mixture colored to match the original grout color. Upon completion, the sculpture was thoroughly re-documented and prepared for exhibition. The cleaned and repaired Franklin Memorial was completed in time for the commemoration of Franklin's 300th birthday.