Jantzen Beach Carousel Restoration Issues

Even under pristine conditions, hundred-year-old objects tend to develop issues.

During the assessment by MPF Conservation, each carousel part was cleaned, using the following in increasing severity depending upon resistance of grime: distilled water, a gentle organic fragrance free cleanser, and occasionally, a museum approved surfactant.

In the case of the Jantzen Beach Carousel in Portland Oregon, MPF Conservation sees four factors that contribute to the current degraded condition:

  • Normal wear and tear or aging.
  • Damage done by the JBC maintenance crews and/or protocol.
  • Damage done during a leak and ceiling collapse in storage.
  • Damage by the 1995 restoration.

MPFC will discuss these four factors below.

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Normal Wear and Tear

An example of this is the Cherub Shields, above, which have developed a catastrophic structural condition that must be repaired or they will split and possibly fall on a visitor. The potential breaks are due to the way the carousel was designed, the manner of attachment, materials used, and the vibrations of the mechanics telegraphing through the wooden superstructure as it rotates.

To ensure this does not happen again in future, MPFC recommends these types of issues should also be followed by a design review that might solve the problem leading to this damage.

Damage by Maintenance or Protocols

Some past protocol was good; some was not. While MPFC hated to point the finger at the maintenance crews, it is important to educate future crews involving this and other carousels in the pitfalls of common practices. Often sound protocol was not followed:

  • Maintenance crews overcoated synthetic amber deck varnish on the painted surfaces, glass eyes and jewels. This was wrong on two counts: 1, the choice of amber synthetic varnish was inappropriate both for the color and the manner in which it was used, and 2, they did not thoroughly clean them beforehand. This accounted for the clabbering, obscurations and a yellow pallor on horses and other parts.
  • In areas of rotting wood, especially in the tail as an example, shown above, we surmise the crews may have gotten the horses wet when cleaning. MPFC heard stories of the horses being hosed down. Water (with or without cleanser) accumulated in areas such as the tail-to-rear leg connection, causing rot in the wood substrate. If there were any cracks (and there always are), water wicked down into the cracks. Maintenance puttied over it instead of doing proper repairs, and the rot continued to grow.
  • Repairs were often made with inappropriate glues or other materials, and some of those have caused tremendous damage, such as repairs using epoxy. It is likely many gemstone replacements are placed on the carousel with epoxy.
  • The following temporary repairs intended to secure breaks or strengthen compromised areas all led to further breaks and rot: driving of box nails, large construction nails, corrugated nails and use of screws.
  • Infilling with inferior acrylic paint. In a maintenance manual they speak of being careful not to rub the paint as it may be soft and roll off; quality acrylic paint will not roll off or corn unless the surface was not cleaned nor primed properly.

Damage by Accident

Obviously, the damage done during a leak and ceiling collapse in storage, already discussed, was monumental. The roof leaked in more than one area, and finally, the ceiling collapsed. Further, no one moved the wet ceiling debris off the cresting boards, decorative beams, and rounding boards, which was negligent on their part. The accumulated wet items setting near other painted wooden parts had the effect of lifting paints on parts and causing moldy buildup on paints which were not directly under the ceiling collapse.

Also, the ingredients forming the drywall which collapsed, when dissolved in water, became caustic, wicking into joinery and breaks, and eating into the surfaces of the painted objects/

Damage by Previous Restoration Choices

Damage by the 1995 restoration: MPFC rarely discusses past restorations, but several treatments performed in 1995 resulted in extensive and consequently expensive damage to the carousel parts we assessed. Because of the value this may provide toward other carousel restorations, we are breaking our rule. To that end:

  • In some cases, poor workmanship. To be fair, we do not know the parameters of the contract management created for the reparation of the items, which may have limited and directed their scope of work. For instance, they had the capability to do proper woodworking, as it appears they correctly added the ends of the Peekaboo mane to Lillie Belle, yet in some instances they used other cost-saving measures which did not last.
  • The carousel horses and other parts of the decorative panels and shields were chemically stripped in 1995. The chemical stripping caused dimensional shifts, splitting and losses of glues in joins, which now results in the need for keylocks and other costly repairs. In other parts it caused twisting of carved relief items.
  • They used acrylic paint; on top of that the paint used was a student grade paint, lacking in strength or durability in this application. When the horses were placed into storage with grease and grime still on them and left for many years, that grime amalgamated with the soft, student grade paint and caused losses in many of the colors.
  • In many decorative items the metallic paint used was a rattle canned paint (unknown variety), which has not held up to heat (it was used around hot lights) nor wet or humid conditions, resulting in shrinking, cracking, and sloughing.