How it all began
In 1989, a group of New Orleans citizens worked together to examine historic monuments needing restoration. An abandoned monument was selected. A restoration plan was developed by volunteers; funds raised; and experts and resources were brought together for restoration consideration. A monument was selected considering it is one of the best works of renowned sculptor, Edward Valentine. The restoration project was a major effort because there were many other neglected monuments in the city. The volunteers then decided to work together and perform more restorations. However, it was apparent that the city had no dedicated funding or comprehensive plan in place to maintain its beautiful historic monuments.
Soon after, the Monumental Task Committee (MTC) grew in volunteers and took the initiative to incorporate in Louisiana as a non-profit corporation. The US Internal Revenue Service subsequently approved MTC as a 501c (3) tax-exempted organization. Volunteers were then educated regarding use of approved monument restoration methods under the guidance of the National Park Service and the General Services Administration; and subsequently MTC added professional metal, stone and other conservators into our group. During this time, MTC also earned the respect of several key city agencies and established good working relationships with many neighborhood organizations. Some of the past restoration project examples are: Ben Franklin, John McDonough, the Women’s Army Corps, Samuel Lowenberg, The Ninth Ward Victory Arch, Henry Clay, the Banks St. WWII, and many others.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, MTC initiated a city-wide survey to locate and ascertain the conditions of all monuments. Volunteers were grouped into teams, assigned different parts of the city, and set about photographing, measuring and recording data on monuments including conditions. Prior to that time, our list of monuments was approximately 90. After the survey, the findings were over 250 monuments are located in Orleans Parish. These included traditional statue and pedestal-type busts, tablets, small stone markers, inscribed flagpoles, descriptive plaques, upright markers- and other types of monuments.
The realization at that time was that the original grass-roots effort was not large enough to address the broad restoration requirements in New Orleans.
The committee therein worked to restructure the Board of Directors to meet future needs; acquired an office; and hired our first professional director to help us manage MTC. In parallel, MTC contracted the professional services of the renowned Columbia University academic Mary Jablonski of Jablonski Building Conservation Inc. in New York City to advise MTC of the proper techniques to evaluate monument conditions and develop restoration with budget plans to address future restoration requirements.
Through fundraising efforts in the past several years, the MTC with the support of its generous donors acquired a flatbed trailer and purchased/installed the necessary field equipment to effectively perform in situ restoration requirements at no cost to the public agencies responsible for the monuments.
Today MTC is committed to growing and expanding its mission; and solicit grants and donations to continue our work. MTC revised its founding charter to work with other parishes regionally. Some of the recent regional restoration efforts have involved the City of Kenner’s military park, upright markers in Jefferson Parish, and statues in Plaquemines, St. Charles, St. Tammany and East Baton Rouge Parishes. Further MTC is working with agencies like City Park and others (e.g., Jackson Barracks) to meet their needs. A newer and more comprehensive monument restoration plan is also presently in development. To also assure that the restorations are properly performed MTC uses the best practices of the National Park Service and the General Services Administration.
In addition, professionals with specific education and experience are being added to our restoration projects resources group, and major new fundraising programs are commencing. We have lots to do and are excited about all that can be achieved through the support and dedication of those that love the New Orleans area and its historic monuments.