Epoxies and historical monuments: A restoration story
Picture credits: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=374376
The colossi of Ramses II in front of Luxor Temple
 Epoxy Resins in Stone Conservation (p. 79), Charles Selwitz, The Getty Conservation Institute.
 El arqueólogo español que levanta colosos en Egipto, Francisco Carrión, El Mundo
 Epoxy, the new invisibility cloak, Epoxy Europe
 [L’industrie c’est fou] Ces tuiles en terre cuite renferment… des panneaux solaires, Elise Pontoizeau, L’usine Nouvelle
History is all around us, and getting to experience some of the architectural prowess or iconic monuments of the past can be quite the awe-inspiring experience. But history means time has passed… and time inevitably takes its toll, which is why the preservation and restoration of historical monuments, buildings and artifacts is so important.
Since the mid-1960’s, epoxies have become a go-to solution for historical restoration, with some of the earliest examples of use in Poland. In 1966, the restoration of the portal of the ‘Eskens House’ in Torun was done by Prof. Wiesław Domasłowski, Polish chemist, and his students.
The portal was made of gray sandstone that was ornately sculpted and painted, but overtime, flaking appeared under the paint that remained and, where the paint had chipped, the sandstone fragmented and powdered. The newly developed ‘pocket method’ was used to coat the portal in epoxy resins to preserve it.
Since then, epoxies have been used in much more ambitious projects. Case in point: the restoration of two colossi in Egypt by Spanish archeologist Miguel Ángel López Marcos. Both colossi, “the standing monarch” representing Pharaoh Seti II, and “the sitting colossus” representing Ramses II, were put back together, reattaching pieces through a “sewing” technique requiring bolts and epoxy resins for reinforcement.
Epoxies can also be an important part of ‘invisible’ and innovative improvements of historical sites. Take Pompeii: photovoltaic panels were installed to power the site, but with a desire to not ‘visually pollute’ it… So what was the solution? Italian company Dyaqua developed ‘invisible solar’ roof tiles -made of terracotta and coated in epoxy resins- that contain photovoltaic cells, allowing these new generation ‘solar tiles’ to produce electricity without affecting the visual landscape of the iconic historical site.
Epoxies can and have been used extensively in restorations across the world: the Neuschwanstein castle mosaics in Germany, statue restorations in Italy an even historical building restorations in the United States… So next time you stand in front of a recently restored monument or building, spare a thought for the wonders of epoxies that likely made it possible.