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Subject: Cor-Ten Steel

Cor-Ten Steel

From: John Scott <jscott>
Date: Tuesday, October 29, 1996
Helen Alten <umca [at] mtn__org> writes

>I am looking for information about conservation of cor-ten steel
>sculpture displayed outdoors.

There is extensive information on weathering steels (e.g., "USS
Cor-Ten") in the metallurgical, engineering, architecture and
corrosion science literatures, beginning as early as the 1920s when
the alloys were developed. During the 1960s and 70s interest
blossomed in the sculpture field, a lot of art was produced, and
today weathering steel is still a popular medium. Sculptors seem to
have produced little pertinent literature, however.

As the query noted, there are few sources on conservation of
cultural properties such as artworks and architecture. Perhaps this
is because the basic technical facts and guidelines for the design
and care of weathering steel fabrications are not complicated, and
have been published and republished. Please forgive me for citing
only my own work, but: for an overview of the history and the
technology of weathering steel, as well as a bibliography, try the
Canadian Conservation Institute's Saving the 20th Century:  The
Conservation of Modern Materials (Ottawa, 1992), pp. 307-322:
"Conservation of Weathering Steel Sculpture." Most recently in print
on this topic are the U. S.  National Park Service's
Twentieth-Century Building Materials, History and Conservation
(Washington, DC, 1995), pp. 72-77: "Weathering Steel," (co-author
Carolyn Searls), and see "Weathering Steel Sculpture"  pp. 35-38 in
the October 1996 issue of the International Sculpture Center's
magazine, Sculpture.

Where a bit more complexity arises is in choice of approach.  There
is a dearth of published anecdotal accounts, but my observation is
that there has been much restoration of weathering steel artworks,
mostly ad hoc (inadequately planned)  including efforts by
conservators, with varying degrees of success.  Choices in different
cases incorporate different amounts and qualities of technical
information and practical experience, and are usually constrained by
economic or logistical expediencies, which may of course be
manipulated like other factors.  As always, aesthetic tastes differ,
and then let's not omit the influence of input from the artists...
So even relatively uncomplicated situations require very careful

Sounds a lot like every other type of conservation, doesn't it?  I
hope more conservation of weathering steel sculptures will be done,
and that interesting work will be published.  A suggestion for
research: as in most areas of conservation, it would be very useful
to have objective evaluations of long-term outcomes of past

John Scott, New York Conservation Center

                  Conservation DistList Instance 10:43
                Distributed: Thursday, October 31, 1996
                       Message Id: cdl-10-43-001
Received on Tuesday, 29 October, 1996

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