Sprucing up our front door

Sprucing up our front door
Describing how we conserved the 1968 lintel sculpture on our building
7 June 2013

Everyone who has visited the Library has walked underneath it, but now the Tom Bass lintel sculpture above our front door has received its first thorough clean in many years.

The Tom Bass lintel sculpture at our front entrance

The (cleaned) Tom Bass lintel sculpture at our front entrance

The sculpture is based on allegorical symbols or pictograms derived from ancient Sumerian seals. At the centre is the winged ‘sun’ representing enlightenment, and the power of inspired truth. On the right is a branch of an evergreen tree with spear-like limbs – representing the ’tree of knowledge and life’, and of knowledge’s continuous growth. And on the left is the curved ‘ark of knowledge’, suggesting a place of preservation and retreat, and of the Library’s role in conserving all types of intellectual endeavour.

Detail of the central section (before cleaning)

Detail of the central panel (before cleaning)

Detail of the central section (after cleaning)

Detail of the central panel (after cleaning)

Commissioned by the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) in 1968, the wax surface on the sculpture had become degraded over time, whitening as it aged. The birds that perch on the sculpture have left their mark over the years and it was important to remove the bird droppings before further damage was done.

Detail of the left panel (before cleaning)

Detail of the left panel (before cleaning)

Detail of the left panel (after cleaning)

Detail of the left panel (after cleaning)

The work started with a high pressure water clean to remove surface dust and dirt. Next, the sculpture was heated to soften the existing wax coating, and the coating was removed by rubbing with a cloth and white spirits.. The metal was again heated and the new wax applied while still warm. The wax coating was then buffed with soft cloths.

Melting the wax coating

Melting the wax coating on the right panel

Cleaning in progress

Cleaning in progress on the right panel

You can also see a fascinating collection pictures of the sculpture's construction and original installation over on our online catalogue at: nla.pic-vn4469415. Commencing on 13 May the refurbishment project was conducted by International Conservation Services and took six people five days to complete.

Installing the lintel sculpture in 1968

Installing the lintel sculpture in 1968