Public art preservation

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Current art preservation techniques include treatments to stone – the material that makes up most, if not all, pieces of public art in Venice. The ultimate goal of stone preservation is to protect it from moisture by sealing the pores that exist on the surface of the object. If the object is not fixed in place, it can be detached from the wall and immersed it in a solvent to seal the stone’s pores. More often than not, however, the pieces are mounted on the side of buildings, and removing them is damagin and would do more harm than good. In these cases, the restorer is limited to a paint or spray application. This only applies to the exposed portions of the piece; some faces are inaccessible, and many have parts that abut the building to which they are mounted, occasionally leading to further structural damage rather than conservation. The damage happens during freeze and thaw cycles that happen naturally with the changing seasons, when the moisture contained within the object changes state and causes the piece to crack or even separate from the building to which it is attached. Moisture that seeps in to the inaccessible face is not able to escape because the front of the object is sealed. All public art is exposed to nature; hence, the only useful techniques for conserving public art are comprehensive cleaning and protection from the elements as much as possible.

There are other preservation techniques used for more seriously damaged pieces (e.g. a break in the stone). When the broken piece is small and relatively lightweight, adhesive is applied and the piece is fixed back in place. If the break is large and heavy, a metal dowel must be used to hold the weight of the piece, in combination with an adhesive. For this type of conservation, restorers must use non-corrodible metal, or else as the metal corrodes, it will split the break open. A copper alloy called Delta metal is commonly used in cases like this.

Organizations including UNESCO, Save Venice, and the WPI Venice Project Center have initiated conservation efforts, notably establishing criteria for the condition of stone pieces. These span many categories including cracking, flaking, chalking, biological growth, grime and human impact. The data gathering methods of WPI students include photography, compiling catalogues and datasets, systematic sweeps of the city and cross-referencing their findings with other organizations and catalogs.

Contributions to Preservation boats

Due to the overwhelming increase of motorized boats in Venice, the traditional rowed boats are being abandoned and are nearing extinction. The slow disappearance of traditional boats can be best seen through the evolution of the rental facilities, known as fitabatèle, which would rent boats for work or pleasure. In the thirty years from 1930 to 1960, 18 of these rental facilities closed, and then an even more drastic decline took place, and in the subsequent 15 years 17 more closures took place. There were once 52 shops that rented traditional boats. Today, none remain.

The squeri that were once one of the most important parts of Venice are also disappearing. There were originally fourteen main squeri that were active in the building of traditional boats. Now, only seven of the fourteen are still operational; although they repair many types of traditional boats, the only new boats which come out of them are gondole, the last of the popular traditional boats.

As renting traditional boats became more difficult, membership for the many rowing clubs around Venice increased. Although traditional boats have become increasingly endangered, the Venetian love of traditional rowing has not diminished. Rowing clubs offer members social interaction for those similarly interested in the unique style of Venetian rowing. The 26 rowing clubs in Venice are known as remiere, and each rowing club has a collection of boats, including rare or unique traditional boats. For example, a very rare batèla a coa de gambero is owned by Ramiera Serenissima. About 28,000 Italians belong to rowing clubs in Venice and elsewhere in northern Italy where the traditional Venetian style of rowing is practiced. These rowing clubs have helped keep the enthusiasm for traditional boats and rowing alive.

Traditional boats are in constant danger of becoming extinct. There are, however, efforts being made to preserve the nautical history of the city of Venice. There are annual races held in Venice, not only as a sport, but also to preserve the ancient Venetian tradition of rowing traditional boats. The ten famous regate are annual races, used to understand and show respect for the lagoon – to help rediscover Venice’s maritime culture. The regate are vastly popular, for both participants and for viewers. One of theses races is called the Vogalonga, an annual race that has thousands of particpants from all of the world. These races are one of the most important ways that traditional boats, rowing, and maritime heritage stay alive in Venice. In addition to the rowing clubs, there are also organizations, such as Arzana and PreserVenice, that are dedicated to preserving traditional boats and the maritime heritage of Venice.

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