Shortly before Congress and President Bush enacted the temporary reprieve for the historic monument, the Army announced that it had “decided to pause” its effort to replace and discard the historic Tomb Monument “until … Congress has the opportunity to review the report.” The report is due at the end of July 2008.
In the meantime, the Army also announced that it was “considering repair of the Tomb Monument’s cracks[.] … If implemented, the repair … is part of the cyclical maintenance that is needed to preserve the Tomb Monument while we continue to explore long-term options.” Given the Army’s stubborn insistence that replacement is necessary, this announcement – under political pressure from Congress and thousands of Americans – is not reassuring to preservationists.
On March 13, therefore, the National Trust for Historic Preservation cautioned the Army and Department of Veterans Affairs that it is imperative that the personnel tasked with conducting the new study of the Tomb Monument be highly experienced specialists in the conservation of marble. For example, this expert must conduct technically sophisticated tests to assess the structural integrity of the monument, evaluate the feasibility of repairing the monument, and prepare cost estimates for repair versus replacement.
The U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards and Guidance, which are designed to “recognize the minimum expertise generally necessary for performing professionally credible historic preservation work,” indicate that the personnel conducting the study for the Tomb of the Unknowns should have:
- Obtained a graduate degree in Conservation;
- Experienced a minimum of three years of professional work in applied Conservation; and,
- Published technical publications and made professional presentations that demonstrate proficiency in Conservation.
We have asked the Army and Department of Veterans Affairs to confirm that the personnel who will conduct the study and prepare the report to Congress possess the required professional qualifications and experience.
-- Robert Nieweg
Robert Nieweg is the director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southern Field Office.