For the first time in decades Mudd's much loved Reading Girl
has been cleaned and repaired. The statue by the American sculptor John Adams Jackson (1825-1879), was donated to the college by Aaron Healey of Brooklyn. In 1885 she was placed in the new Spear Library on Tappan Square. The statue moved from the Spear to the Carnegie Library in 1908 and stayed over 40 years on the second floor reading room, the current Root Room. Mid-century renovations in Carnegie forced her into exile in various campus storage locations until former Director of Libraries, Bill Moffett brought her to Mudd in 1980.
There are three phases in the cleaning process. First a water-soluble paste is applied which lifts surface dirt and grime. Then the statue is covered in a thick layer of clay which, as it quite spectacularly dries, cracks, and falls off in hundreds of small chunks, pulls moisture and dissolved contaminants from below the surface. In the final stage of the process, a wax coating will be applied to smooth and protect the outer surface.
Cleaning and restoration work on The Reading Girl
and her companion, La Penserosa,
sculpted by Richard Henry Park (1832-ca. 1892), are being carried out by Nick Fairplay of Fairplay Stonecarvers. Fairplay, who has extensive experience in stonecarving and restoration, including work for Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, commented: "She's an amazing example of Victorian carving. Such clear, high quality Carrara marble is very scarce."