The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Preserving precious ground

Photo by Photo by Carlos Romero

Volunteers who helped clean the Bonfire Memorial also learned about maintaining monuments. 

Armed with scrub brushes, ladders and water hoses, a task force of student volunteers and University Art Galleries department staff members held the first Bonfire Memorial Conservation Day on Nov. 7.
From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 30 volunteers worked in shifts for the annual minor conservation maintenance. In addition to running the two university galleries, the University Art Galleries department cleans more than 34 sculptures around campus annually.
In the past, students from select classes were given extra credit to participate, but this was the first year that volunteering was open to the student body and public, making it the first official conservation day.
Cleaning included gently scrubbing the memorial’s metal with non-abrasive soap and coating it with a sculpture wax to restore color, as well as to protect the metal from corrosion and UV rays. This is called minor conservation and is done as an alternative to expensive and invasive measures that would be taken by a professional conservation team, according to Amanda Cagle, collections manager of J. Wayne Stark Galleries.
“What we do is preventative maintenance to preserve the metal, take care of any minor corrosion that we can spot clean,” Cagle said. “There are a lot of preventative things we can do to keep everything in great condition.”
The Art Galleries Department began advertising for the conservation day through social media and local media outlets on Nov. 2. Jonathan Miller, communication senior, saw the event on Facebook and invited members of his organization, Alpha Phi Omega, to volunteer.
“Bonfire Memorial holds a really special place in my heart,” Miller said. “Everytime I come out here it’s usually with other people or when I just need a reminder that life is precious. It’s beautiful that we get to come to this university that has such amazing respect for our traditions and people who have come before us, so when given the chance to preserve something like this I was ready to jump on it.”
Conservation Day was an opportunity to serve others for Sarah Hall, Alpha Phi Omega member and environmental geoscience senior.
“I saw that [Alpha Phi Omega] posted this specific service event and I wanted to do it because A&M has provided so much and I wanted to do something for the campus itself to stay clean so people could enjoy it,” Hall said. “[This also respects the] memorial itself because it represents the Aggie family as a whole and keeping that tradition. I really like and support the traditions of A&M, so this is how I show my support.”
Volunteers who participated had a unique opportunity to learn about preserving monuments, according to Catherine Hastedt, director of the University Art Galleries department.
“I like the fact that the students get to participate,” Hastedt said. “It’s an educational thing for them to learn about sculpture conservation because too many people just walk by sculptures and don’t even think about the longevity. We want things to look nice and the students want to honor the students that died in the tragedy, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
The Bonfire Memorial’s annual cleaning is always scheduled right before the anniversary of the collapse, so the monument is at its finest when people gather to remember the fallen, Cagle said.
“All the sculptures on campus belong to everyone, we just take care of them for everyone to enjoy,” Cagle said. “This is an opportunity for people to really get hands on experience taking care of these pieces of Aggie history. Particularly, [Bonfire Memorial] because as you’re cleaning, you’re reading the quotes, you’re seeing the faces of the victims that died. This is connecting in an extremely personal way that you might not experience in just a cursory walk through.”

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  • Jayne Hattaway cleans Bonfire Memorial on Nov. 7.

    Photo by Photo by Carlos Romero

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