January 4, 2019 Daedalus Co. Restores Old Corner Bookstore Marker
Michael “Mars” Marston of Daedalus Co. prepared this article on the company’s restoration of a 1930 bronze marker that commemorates Anne Hutchinson. The plaque once hung on the Old Corner Bookstore building and was recently discovered by the Boston Planning and Development Agency hidden away in City Hall. Daedalus is an art conservation company with extensive experience on a wide range of historic materials. In his post, Michael describes the restoration process for a bronze marker, and the importance of that work to the person who stops to read it.
Bronze plaques are everywhere. Publicly displayed, tucked in corners of a public park, hidden from view by an overgrown bush, old and new, worn and maintained.
Generally speaking, bronze is an alloy – or combination of metals – of copper and tin. Bricks, or ingots, of bronze transform into a plaque through the process of sand casting. A model of the plaque is made then pressed into special sand that retains every shape and detail. The bronze is heated to a molten state and poured into the mold. Once cooled, the bronze is removed from the sand mold and, if all goes well, you are left with a cast that matches the model.
Before assuming its place, the surface of the plaque must be cleaned up and patinated. Various treatments are done to the surface to highlight the detail and make the imagery or words legible.
Over time, the bronze wears. Sometimes plaques are moved. Maybe the building upon which it was once displayed is torn down or lost to fire.
When Daedalus picked up the Anne Hutchinson plaque from Historic Boston, the patination was worn and the text was difficult to read. To remedy this we first had to thoroughly clean the surface of dust and other residues that had built up over time. Next the letters were polished to shine. We applied a coating that matched the color of the plaque and restored it to a rich, even brown tone. The letters were gently polished once more before we applied a clear protective coating.
The letters, individually polished, can now be seen and strung into words. The message chosen by the City of Boston in 1930 can now be read.
Markers remind us that something else used to be here. I imagine this “Old Corner Bookstore” and all the folks who may have frequented it. I imagine Anne Hutchinson and wonder who she was and what she did to be commemorated by those in power with this plaque.
It calls me to interact with history.