On September 13th, however, we understand that staff to the Senate Armed Services Committee met with Mary Oehrlein, a preservation expert and author of the Cemetery’s 1990 study of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument.
Ms. Oehrlein told congressional staffers:
- “Although there is separation in the stone along the naturally occurring fault lines of the stone … i.e. the cracks ... the monument is in no danger of falling apart and poses no danger to the public or cemetery personnel. A very significant external force, similar to an earthquake, would be required to cause the stone to slide apart.”
- “The existing monument can easily be repaired, as was done 17 years ago, using conventional conservation methods to re-grout the cracks. Once repaired, the fault lines would be virtually invisible from the public viewing areas.”
- “There is no way to stop the deterioration of the surface of the existing stone or any newly quarried and carved piece of stone, unless it is placed out of the weather in a controlled environment.”
- “The idea that a new piece of stone can be quarried that will not contain faults is unrealistic. The chance of quarrying three flawless pieces of stone is zero. It really is a question of how quickly the faults will appear when the replacement stone is quarried, carved or as the stone weathers.”
Contributed by Robert Nieweg, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Southern Field Office.