Historic Preservation

  • "I learned about the development, collaboration, documentation, and submissions involved in the full completion of an on-site project."

  • Cleaning a grave marker with D2 at Old Swedes

Caitlin Livesey | Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument & Materials Conservation Collaborative

As a research fellow with the Center for Architectural Conservation (CAC), along with Carly Adler, I helped to conserve Stump P-47 at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Florissant, Colorado. P-47 is a 34-million-year-old petrified sequoia stump that has been deteriorating since its excavation about 85 years ago. Spalling, cracking, and material loss are all prevalent forms of deterioration on the stump. Environmental factors such as freeze-thaw cycles, UV exposure, and precipitation all contribute to the stump’s condition. It was also likely damaged by dynamite at the time of excavation. In order to preserve the overall form of the stump, we reattached loose or detached fragments of petrified wood to the stump using an epoxy, Araldite 2015. Our process began with photographic documentation of the stump and identification of loose, detached, and missing fragments. For each fragment in need of reattachment, we completed a thorough cleaning to ensure that it was clear of dirt and debris. We used a Dremel to create texture on the backside of the fragment, and we evaluated the geometry of each fragment and determined the proper shape and amount of epoxy application. We then reattached and secured the fragment to the stump for curing. This treatment will be monitored by the park and, if successful, may be applied to other stumps in the fossil park.

The knowledge that I acquired in Conservation Science was particularly useful on this project for the identification of deterioration conditions. I also drew on photography techniques learned in Documentation and Recording. I gained hands-on experience working with conservation tools such as Dremels and epoxy guns, and I learned about the development, collaboration, documentation, and submissions involved in the full completion of an on-site project. I was also able to interact with park visitors daily and discuss our project. I had the opportunity to work with esteemed archaeologist Dr. Herbert Meyer and meet many wonderful employees of the National Park Service, as well as a fellow conservation student from UCLA. I’m so grateful that this fellowship allowed me to work on such an exciting project and to gain practical experience in the conservation field.

As an intern with Materials Conservation, I had the opportunity to work at Old Swedes Church in Wilmington, Delaware, a historic property built in 1699. Various headstones at the site’s cemetery had been marked for treatment for reasons such as cracking, loss, or misalignment.

To assist with the treatments, I cleaned headstones using D2 Biological Solution and repointed cracks and joints using primarily Jahn mortar and Butter Joint mortar. I also used Jahn to fill large gaps from material loss in the stone. I learned about different treatments required for different stone types used as grave markers and about the application of various mortars. I gained hands-on experience cleaning and repairing masonry in the field, as well as learning about different projects from conservation professionals. I was fortunate to work under Kristin Cardi of Materials Conservation and learn from her years of experience, as well as meet a number of employees and learn about their roles at MCC.