Conservator’s Notebook: North Wall Project

Pictured here is the north side of the Bapst building,  the site of this construction project and the place in which the John J. Burns Library is housed.

Pictured here is the north side of the Bapst building, the site of this construction project and the place in which the John J. Burns Library is housed.

During summer 2010, significant attention was given to the North façade of our building. Boston College, well attuned to the importance of the beautiful Bapst building in the history of the campus, dedicated funding to clean the façade, to repair numerous cracks in the elegant stone-work, to replicate a missing finial, and to replace aging mortar.  We were blessed with a marvelous project manager, Jacob Mycofsky. Jake made sure we were kept abreast of developments and progress as the work moved forward. The Burns staff rallied to help me get the interior prepared for the construction by re-locating collections which would potentially be in harm’s way if left in place.  Key people who assisted me in this phase were: Justine Sundaram, David Horn, David Richtmyer, Meaghan Madden, Elizabeth Sweeney, and Jack Kearney. Jake Mycofsky arranged for professional movers to do the heavy lifting, so we stayed aligned with the construction scheduling. Scaffolding went up at rapid speed and the construction commenced. Work in the early weeks included the sound of drilling for hours at end: staff and scholars were incredibly patient despite the din. To add to that excitement, the crew while testing the cracks with blasts of water caused leaks to happen throughout the building. I was kept busy moving from room to room securing areas which had water seepage. Fortunately, because we had moved collections away from the north wall, no rare materials were damaged during the entire construction period.  Our Archives and Manuscripts Department was called into service when the original design for the finial was needed: an image from a 1929 Sub Turri proved to be the model.

The replica finial may be seen in this photo, or if you are on campus facing the Burns Library, you can observe it high overhead gracing the top of the elegant spire on the northwest corner of the roofline.

The replica finial may be seen in this photo, or if you are on campus facing the Burns Library, you can observe it high overhead gracing the top of the elegant spire on the northwest corner of the roofline.

The replica finial may be seen in the accompanying photo, or if you are on campus facing the Burns Library, you can observe it high overhead gracing the top of the elegant spire on the northwest corner of the roofline. Once the finial was in place, the north façade was treated with a sealant as a preventive measure: the attractive Roxbury Puddingstone from which the building is constructed is a porous stone.  Security issues were addressed in this building project as well: the windows on the ground level were protected by grates which were showing signs of aging. The grates have been re-furbished and are stronger than before. If you haven’t visited the John J. Burns Library recently, you should stop by to admire the beauty of the newly cleaned and repaired façade. The subtle variations in the stonework color tones are much more visible and the building looks grand and inviting on a chilly winter day. After admiring the exterior, come inside to see our exhibitions: Scientific Revolutions and Notes on Nursing: Past, Present and Future.

  • Barbara Adams Hebard, Conservator, Burns Library

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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