DELTA, Utah — The Topaz Museum Board is publicly releasing the conservation and protection plan for the Wakasa Monument, following recommendations from the National Park Service (NPS) that certain steps be taken to “ensure the stability of the stone associated with the monument in its current condition.”
The Topaz Museum Board (TMB) intends to implement the NPS recommendations in two phases.
The first is to consult with NPS and the Utah State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in creating technical procedures. The second is to hire a stone conservator to lead a team that will assess, analyze, and recommend conservation treatments, and with the approval of the NPS and SHPO, implement those treatments.
This is part of an expansive project that will determine the future of the Wakasa Monument.
Long-term plans for the monument will be guided by community voices via the Topaz Community Outreach and Survey Project, now under way, which is soliciting, gathering, and assessing input from the broader Topaz community and interested stakeholders. Details of the Topaz Community Outreach and Survey Project can be found at www.TopazCommunityOutreach.com. A separate companion plan is being prepared for archaeology at the Wakasa Memorial Site.
In 1943, incarcerees at the Topaz concentration camp erected a monument to memorialize James Hatsuaki Wakasa, who was shot and killed by a military guard. The U.S. government ordered the removal of the monument, its location unknown until a large stone presumed to be the monument was found in 2020. After its location was publicly revealed, the Topaz Museum Board relocated the stone to the courtyard of the museum, where it is secure and protected.
A team from the NPS examined the excavated stone in 2021, making recommendations to conserve the artifact, resulting in the creation of the Stone Conservation Plan for the monument. Details of the plan are as follows.
In its Condition Assessment Report (January 2022), the National Park Service (NPS) recommended that certain steps be taken to “ensure the stability of the stone associated with the monument in its current condition.” The Topaz Museum Board (TMB) intends to implement all of those recommended steps to stabilize and preserve the monument as a first step followed by technical stone conservation of the Wakasa Monument.
The TMB emphasizes that this plan is just one step in a process that includes soliciting, gathering, and assessing community input from interested stakeholders before the long-term future of the Wakasa Monument is decided. Through a Topaz Community Outreach and Survey Project, the TMB will solicit, gather, and evaluate the community input.
Separate companion plans are being prepared for archaeology at the Wakasa Memorial Site and the 80th Anniversary Memorial Ceremony in April 2023.
Implementation of NPS Recommendations
Section 5.0 of the NPS report is entitled “Resource Stewardship Recommendations.” Subsection 5.1 is entitled “Recommendations for the Stone Associated with the Monument” and states “[t]he most immediate step that can be taken to ensure the stability of the stone associated with the monument in its current condition is to make sure the environment in which it is stored is not causing or exacerbating damage or destruction.”
The NPS-recommended initial steps include:
• Drilling ventilation holes in the existing protective shed structure to encourage air flows through the shed interior.
• Adding a fixed base for the existing protective shed structure to provide additional stability, ventilation, and resistance to wind-produced uplift.
• Removing the stone from the pallet and carpet fragment on which it currently sits and placing it in the wooded frame filled with pea gravel covered by a geotextile fabric. To do this, the stone will be lifted. To minimize moving the stone more than once, the timing of this activity will be coordinated with the site visit by the stone conservation team (see below) and presents an opportunity for limited public viewing by invitation. The TMB will give ample notice of the date and time the monument will be lifted.
• Removing the yellow strap that is currently around the stone will be done after the stone is placed on the new pea gravel and geotextile base.
As the legal steward of the monument, the TMB will implement these recommended steps in consultation with the National Park Service and Utah State Historic Preservation Office.
Evaluation and Recommendations for Stone Conservation
The TMB will engage the services of a stone conservation consulting team, and will emphasize professional qualifications and experience in its selection of the project team.
Immediate availability and scrupulous adherence to the highest professional standards are a must. A demonstrated understanding of the cultural sensitivities involved in this and similar projects will be a plus. The TMB will compile a list of potential conservators, prepare a request for proposal, evaluate the submitted proposals, and select the most qualified team.
The team will have expertise in stone conservation; petrography; geology; moving of large objects such as outdoor sculptures, statues, and headstones; and other disciplines as required.
The consulting teams will submit budgets and schedules for their anticipated work, including field trips to inspect the monument.
The consulting team will examine all four sides of the stone, evaluate its existing condition, determine its origins (if possible), and consider 3D digital modeling. The team will also review the NPS recommendations and provide input on their implementation.
Following the evaluation of the monument, the consulting team will make recommendations for short- and long-term conservation treatments, taking into consideration the optimal environment (outdoor/indoor) for the long-term physical well-being of the stone. With respect to the planning process for the monument, in addition to its conservation, the TMB will be considering the comments, suggestions, and other input resulting from its community outreach efforts.
Following receipt and final approval of the conservation report, the TMB will consider the recommended short- and long-term conservation treatments, prepare a plan for their implementation, and budget accordingly.
The TMB will appoint a board member to work with the consulting team. That board member will be the project team’s liaison with the TMB, facilitate the dissemination of the project team’s progress reports, and provide TMB oversight of the costs and expenses being incurred.
The TMB will keep the public informed of the conservation team’s progress throughout their study.
For more information on the Topaz Museum, call (435) 864-2514 or visit https://topazmuseum.org/.