Case Study
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Torch of the Statue of Liberty

At the outset, this project was very cloak and dagger– several weeks of telephone consultation went by before Rambusch Lighting was prepared to disclose that the job involved moving the original 1885 torch of the Statue of Liberty. After the torch was replaced in 1986, it had been housed in a small museum at the base of the statue. Now the fragile 3600 pound torch was to be moved to a new museum. The consultation and input H&L provided to this historic project is an excellent illustration of our process and how we can deliver expertise and a fresh perspective on key deliverables. Executive Vice President Mike Papania made an onsite inspection to determine the best plan of attack for dismantling and rebuilding the torch.

Identify Construction /Fabrication

The copper metalwork was in two different forms. The much modified lower portion was an assemblage of shaped and formed copper strapping. The upper portion was shaped copper that had been cut out to accommodate retrofitted glass panes. Like the rest of the Statue, the shaped copper is repousse: sheets heated and formed with wooden hammers.

Reverse engineer to find improvements

Mike understood that in those times, workers would join two pieces of hammered copper with solid rivets. One worker would put the rivet through the holes and another would hammer it on the other side so it would expand or ‘mushroom. Removal and re-installation of the solid copper rivets was a concern because the torch was so old and fragile. Our job: find a way of removing and replacing those rivets without damage.

Determine appropriate modern practices and improvements

Mike determined a simple brass bolt was the solution. Because brass is a soft metal, not only was it easy to shape, it also would not damage the pieces during reassembly.

Audit the structure

This was predominantly Rambusch’s responsibility, and they created a baseline condition survey, conservation, and cleaning program. However, H&L were onsite to oversee and instruct on correct procedures during the dismantling, transport, and reassembly of the torch elements.

Identify the type of metal and method of fastening to the structure

These details were already well established: the torch base was a copper and iron framework, and the flame was all copper. However replaced parts sometimes used fasteners that were not copper, so there were some dissimilar metal issues.

Assess the existing metal, while determining the cause of existing failure

The torch’s fragile condition was well known to be the result of both its age and the many modifications made over the years, from the portholes added in 1886 to the replacement of a significant amount of copper with amber coloured glass in 1916. The modifications resulted in water damage and erosion making the process of dismantling, moving and reconstructing the torch a daunting task. It had been determined in the 1980s that the original torch was too damaged to be restored as part of the Statue of Liberty. But the importance of preserving the torch as a historic artifact was absolute.

Evaluate the structure behind the metalwork

The structure was inspected to insure that it could safely be moved once dismantled. Although very fragile, the H & L team was confident that because this piece was being relocated inside a museum its structural integrity would be secure. A new base was designed and fabricated for the torch to rest in. The foot was able to be reinstated without any modifications to the structural frame.

Define scope of work and provide recommendations

It took almost two years of consultation to devise the best plan for the torch. Heather and Little devised their plan over a period of three months. H&L visited the site to understand the challenges with the iconic museum piece of history. It was decided that both artifacts (the foot and Torch) would be broken down into two separate pieces each. The four pieces would be moved by the rigging company to the new museum. Heather and Little returned months later to oversee the reassembly.

Execute the restoration

Heather & Little’s role in the restoration was very specific. Creating three different lengths, H&L shop professionals grinded down the six-sided brass bolts so they would be round, and then hammered the tops to give them an authentic look. The bolts were then covered with solder, followed by a blue stone chemical to give them that aged copper appearance. The bolts that were created were exact replicas. H&L guided the disassembly of the torch and the replica foot. H&L instructed contractors to carefully drill out the original solid copper rivets to make disassembly possible. Once the pieces were moved to the new museum, the H&L team was again on hand for the re-assembly using the H&L fabricated brass bolts which were made into solid rivet replicas.

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