Friday, June 26, 2009

NPS/NCPTT Ornamental Iron Workshop June 18-19 2009

June 18-19 2009 was an Ornamental Iron Workshop in New Orleans, Louisiana co-sponsored by the National Park Service, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, Save our Cemeteries, and Tulane University. The instructors were Jason Church, Eric Schindelholz, and Mary Striegel. The workshop met at Tulane University in the morning, beginning with introductions from the 14 participants who were a mixture of conservators, students, staff from Save our Cemeteries, and the Tulane Preservation studies program.

The first day began with lectures about metal production, structures, alloying metals, and surface treatments. This led into lectures about corrosion and then cleaning, priming, and painting. The final lecture covered writing condition reports, then a trip to St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 for a tour by a from the staff of Save our Cemeteries. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and No. 2 are available for tours and included on the African American Heritage Trail. The tour answered why so many people are buried in one tomb, after a burial it is customary to wait one year and one day, then the tomb is opened, the coffin remains are discarded, and the human remains, mainly bones, are moved to a lower section underneath the main chamber. In the afternoon, the participants seperated into groups and wrote condition assessments 1 or 2 monuments.

The next tour was of a Andrew's welding and blacksmith shop. Darryl Reeves (pictured) gave a tour and demonstration, creatin g a beautiful "steak flipper" out of steel and then raffling it off to a lucky participant.

The second day began with presentations of the condition reports and lectures about the care of ironwork and safety. Returning to St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, treatment stations were begun that included: priming, cleaning, simple repairs, rust treatments, and painting. These treatments were on abandoned tombs, the archdiocese of New Orleans considers a tomb abandoned if there has been no burial or any activity for 50 years. The treatments lasted the rest of the afternoon, followed with a wrap-up and group photos back at the Save our Cemeteries office.

The work was challenging, the spaces between tombs were small and to reach some areas you had to slide in carefully. Howard Wellman (pictured) demonstrates these skills while he is priming ironwork. It was also hot, with the temperature over 100 degrees on both days, luckily there were shelters over the areas where work was being done, and the workshop provided sunscreen and lots of water.

The workshop was a great success. It was a good balance of lectures, information, and hands-on practical work that was challenging. It was well-paced and interesting, including lectures, each participant left with a binder full of more information about ornamental ironwork conservation. Mary was a great supervisor, balancing hard work and breaking for great food in a city that is known for it's culinary history.

For more information about my personal experiences on this trip to New Orleans please go to

1 comment:

jchurch said...

More pictures of the workshop can be found at