Protesters take it easy on Capitol building.

[ 0 ] March 8, 2011 |

Tape residue on the base of a marble column.

Now that the initial overwhelming reaction to Governor Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill” has given way to more coordinated responses, officials have begun to assess the effects of the protests on the Capitol building and grounds.  A range of cleanup estimates have been tossed around in various media.  My post on the National Trust’s PreservationNation Blog piqued the interest of several journalists and bloggers and seemed to spark some conversation last week about initial damage estimates.  I was out of town and unable to take the phone calls, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel picked up the story and contacted state staff at the Dept. of Administration and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

I walked through the building again yesterday with Jason Stein of the Journal-Sentinel and saw that a comprehensive cleanup has yet to be undertaken.  Floors appeared to be a little darkened with dirt (apparent where cable tape had masked the floor from the foot traffic), bits of tape, paper, food and dried mud were visible in obscure areas of the floor and on some ledges, I saw a couple of stickers that had not been scraped off marble walls, and in a few places paint had been pulled off walls by the careless removal of tape.  But the damage didn’t rise above the cosmetic and appeared to be nothing more than we all experience in our own homes.  The Capitol, of course, is many times larger than our homes and a comprehensive cleanup will take many times longer.

A big question seems to be the effect of adhesive residue from the painter’s tape used to hang hundreds of signs on marble walls.  Marble is calcium carbonate which is alkaline. Adhesives are acidic which can have a corrosive effect on the marble over time. Marble is also porous and can absorb the adhesive, resulting in an etching effect over time.

Peter Maternowski, deputy administrator of the Division of State Facilities, said the state has hired Charlie Quagliana to evaluate the building’s condition and recommend how to proceed. Quagliana worked on the 2001 restoration project and is an expert in historic building materials.

There is also damage to the landscape features on the Capitol grounds. Melting snow made the lawn wet and soft, and the heavy foot traffic trampled grass and a few shrubs around the square.

The effect of the recent protests on the Capitol seems to be a case of accelerated wear and tear. The building gets tens of thousands of visitors in a  year, and it saw that many or more in the past three weeks. The minimal damage caused in these weeks pales in comparison to the potential damage that that many raucous protesters could have done. But as I wrote in my post last week the protesters adopted an ownership ethic in the building and treated it, almost universally, with care and respect.

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