Volunteers from France help out at Green-Wood Cemetery

In the 15th year of its historic preservation program, volunteers from as near as Williamsburg and as far as France came to Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery on Wednesday, August 3, to help preserve the “Angel of Music” sculpture that stands on the grave of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, a 19th century celebrity and America’s first internationally recognized composer and virtuoso pianist.

Through the organization Preservation Volunteers (PV), that provides a cultural exchange student program between France and America to study preservation and restoration, Green-Wood has had the opportunity every summer for the last 15 years to teach preservation techniques to students from France who are part of the France-based organization REMPART, described as the “Union for the Restoration of Monuments and Artistic Heritage.”

This year, four French volunteers, Alexandria, Clara, Tom and Olivier, ranging from ages 18 to 45, in addition to two high school students interning at Green-Wood from the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, Alexis and Arturo, washed and applied a fresh layer of wax to the 11 1/2-foot-tall bronze angel statue to help prevent rusting and oxidation.

“We choose to show all our French exchange students the facets of restoration so they can learn about the preservation and restoration that we do here in Green-Wood,” said Frank Morelli, Green-Wood’s manager of plant and facilities. “It’s also about the experience of coming to America and seeing New York, in addition to giving them a different flavor of restoration, which is something they could handle very differently in France.” 

The founders of PV, Evelyn and Everett Ortner, were renowned preservationists from Park Slope who were dedicated to historic preservation in Brooklyn. After both of the Ortners died, Dexter Guerrieri, a partnering founder, became president of the program and has been dedicated to continuing the cultural exchange program between REMPART and PV.

“Volunteers are so important to helping preserve beautiful and historic spaces,” said Guerrieri. “We are thrilled that once again our volunteers get to discover new ways to restore cultural gems at Green-Wood.”

“We are pleased to strengthen our relationship with the Preservation Volunteers each year,” said Richard Moylan, president of Green-Wood. “Our work together over the last 15 years has done much to restore the beauty and integrity of Green-Wood and our headstones, monuments, sculptures and history. I’d like to thank all the preservationists and volunteers for their commitment to helping keep Green-Wood’s history alive.”

To learn more about the program, visit preservationvolunteers.org.

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