The park’s historic preservation crew and National Capital Region’s architectural conservator have for the last few days been doing the painstaking work needed to remove paint splashed by a vandal on the statue of President Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial.
The memorial and statue were splattered with green paint during the early morning hours of July 26th. So far, more than 90 percent of the paint has been removed, and the cleaning process to remove the remainder is going well.
The preservation crew is comprised of preservation masons and workers, several of whom are graduates of the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center and specialize in treating and cleaning the statues and historic structures throughout National Mall and Memorial Parks.
US Park Police officers discovered the paint splattered on the statue and the floor in the Lincoln Memorial when they were alerted to the incident at 1:30 a.m. It is not yet known if this incident is connected to several other incidents of vandalism that occurred in Washington this week, including one at the National Cathedral and another on the Joseph Henry statue in front of the Smithsonian Castle.
The memorial was briefly closed to the public, but was reopened as soon as the preservation crew completed its initial work. At that time, paint was successfully removed from the floors, made of Tennessee pink marble, without any damage. Techniques used on the floor were gentle cleaning with pressurized water, plastic scrapers, and a citrus based cleanser.
Work has proved more difficult on the statue itself. The statue, made of white marble, is much more porous and a different technique is required for cleaning. Conservation-based cleansers were tested on the statue and the crew ended up using a product called Mason RE, which is being applied to the paint on the statue and removed by pressurized water after curing overnight. It was recommended by NCR’s architectural conservator and has been tested on the statue stone.
On Tuesday, scaffolding was put up around the statue to provide the crew better access to the affected areas. The crew is applying incrementally stronger applications of the Mason RE product and several applications will likely be needed. Conservation treatments are expected to continue for several days.