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Sunday, May 15 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Objects + Architecture) The Effect of an Unexpected Spring Thaw in Montreal: Natural Disaster as ‘Fifth Business’

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At precisely 4:30 a.m. on March 11, 2015 a large block of ice fell from the roof cornice of McCord Museum; gained momentum over several storeys and smashed through the north end of a glass and metal sculpture below. This unexpected accident lead to the complete dismantling and conservation of Pierre Granche’s Totem Urbain/Histoire en dentelles, one of the Montreal artist’s major public commissions, completed in 1992. Totem Urbain/Histoire en dentelles pays homage to both past and present Montreal, its geography and culture. Composed of 17 elements in brass, six levels of glass panes and fragments, atop an aluminum substructure, the entire sculpture both figuratively and literally bridges the old and new McCord edifice, located along Victoria Street. While regular maintenance had tracked and mitigated preservation issues typical in the care of an outdoor sculpture – such as vandalism, theft, the effects of pollution, dirt, biological growth and debris, as well as the inherent vice of materials and techniques used, the sudden and violent impact on the sculpture from falling ice presented a unique opportunity to the McCord Museum: it not only allowed for the repair and replacement of damaged glass and metal, but also provided an occasion to improve the structural stability and the durability of the work. In addition to major work completed on the glass base, CSMO’s treatment also included the creation of a more easily accessible and secure anchoring system for the brass elements, an upgrade of the integrated but long defunct lighting system, and an improvement of the artwork’s drainage. As conservators, we look at how our buildings and public artworks are constructed - not in terms of double-paned windows and R-values, but public safety, artwork security and finding a balance between public access and preservation. The fall of ice from the cornice of the museum recalls the fateful snowball thrown by Percy Boyd Staunton in the iconic Canadian novel Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies. As the effects of that snowball reverberate throughout the remainder of the book, so did the impact of the ice: though devastating to the sculpture, it set in motion the type of discussion and conservation treatment needed to preserve this emblematic Canadian artwork for decades to come.

avatar for Brittany Webster

Brittany Webster

Conservator / Restauratrice, Conservation of Sculptures, Monuments and Objects (CSMO) and B.Webster Restauration d'oeuvres d'art & design
Brittany Webster holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design (University of Manitoba, 2008) and a Master of Art Conservation (Queen’s University, 2012). She has interned and worked with Alexander Gabov of Sculptures, Monuments and Objects (CSMO) for the past 4 years, including the... Read More →

avatar for Alexander Gabov

Alexander Gabov

Head Conservator/owner, Conservation of Sculptures, Monuments and Objects
Conservation of Sculptures, Monuments and Objects (CSMO) is a full-service conservation firm for the preservation, conservation and maintenance of sculptures, monuments, architectural elements, artifacts, and objects.
avatar for Anne MacKay

Anne MacKay

Head, Conservation, McCord Museum
Anne MacKay is the Head, Conservation at the McCord Museum in Montreal, where she oversees all conservation and preservation activities. She has interned and worked as a conservator in museums nationally and internationally, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum... Read More →

Sunday May 15, 2016 3:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Room 710 B