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Grand Pré National Historic Site of Canada

Statue of Evangeline
Inspired by the story of the deportation at Grand Pré, in 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published the poem Evangeline. In 1920, the Dominion Atlantic Railway erected a statue of Evangeline, designed by the sculptor Philippe Hébert, and executed by his son Henri. 
© Parks Canada / F. Gaudet

Conservation Treatment of the Evangeline Statue

A conservator rinces off the statue of Evangeline. The conservator is rinsing the surface of the statue of Evangeline before starting the waxing process.
© Parks Canada / F. Gaudet

Outdoor bronze sculptures, such as Evangeline at Grand Pre, are exposed to the elements 365 days a year; their surfaces get covered in pollen, dirt and bird droppings and become home to numerous insects and spiders. Every two years Parks Canada conservators step in to clean these valuable objects and protect them for years to come.

Below is an overview of the steps needed to protect the statue of Evangeline at Grand Pré National Historic Site.

Assessing the statue's condition

Step one is to examine the surface of the statue and make a report on its condition. This includes looking for any areas that may have become weakened or cracked. If these areas exist, great care will be taken to avoid more damage during treatment, and if need be repairs to the sculpture are undertaken.

Cleaning the statue

A conservator is brushing off any areas where the dirt is tenaciously adhering to the surface of the Evangeline statue. The conservator is applying wax to the sculpture. The wax will help protect the statue against the elements.
© Parks Canada / F. Gaudet

Step two is to remove dirt, pollen, insects / pests, and bird droppings. These are unsightly and their acid by-products can lead to corrosion of the bronze surface. Being near the sea, the Evangeline statue is also exposed to salty air, and so salt deposits need to be removed as well. Finally, any old coatings from previous treatments are removed to so that the new protective coat will create a uniform barrier. This cleaning is done using a simple soap and water solution.

Loose debris and dirt are removed from the surface using a pressure washer. Next the conservator will use a solution of mild soap and water and a stiff, non-metallic bristle brush to scrub off any areas where the dirt is tenaciously adhering to the surface. After a final rinse of the statue with water, the surface is ready for waxing.

Applying Wax 

Step three of the process involves heating the surface and applying a custom blend of hard waxes. Regular paste wax would be too soft for an outdoor sculpture and would break down too quickly.

The surface is heated using a propane torch, and when a sufficient temperature is reached the wax is applied using a brush. The heated wax flows across all areas of the statue and soaks into its semi porous surface. Any excess wax is removed while it is still hot.

A man wipes down the statue of Evangeline. The final step consists of buffing the waxed surface of the Evangeline statue using a lint free cloth.
© Parks Canada / F. Gaudet

Buffing

Step four involves letting the statue cool and then buffing the waxed surface with a lint free cloth.

The wax coating will keep future dirt and debris and the salt air from having direct contact with the metal and will reduce the amount of corrosion that would otherwise form naturally. It also brings the patina to a uniform appearance and a more saturated look.

By the time two years has passed, the wax succumbs to the elements and the statue of Evangeline will need to be treated again.