Capital University's section of the Berlin Wall is now the centerpiece of a courtyard being established on the south side of Huber-Spielman Hall.
The wall recently was moved from the first floor of Blackmore Library to a grassy area that is being converted into a courtyard where students can go when they want a space that is quiet, contemplative and green.
The move is the latest sign of progress in the transformation of Blackmore Library into an information commons — a place where students can study, collaborate, access computers and printers, and get help from librarians in a comfortable, light and bright environment with individual and group study spaces.
The University acquired the 12-foot, 2.8-ton piece of history and symbol of freedom in November 1992, following the wall's display in AmeriFlora, an international floral exhibition held in Columbus. Since coming to Capital, it has been an important piece of campus culture. In November 2009, students, faculty and staff packed the library lobby to mark the 20-year anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demise. The event featured remarks by law professor and historian David Mayer, Alexander Pantsov, professor of history, members of the Fuller Society, and others, along with a series of readings from historically significant speeches, public documents and other records tied to the events surrounding the wall, its fall, and what is considered to be the tipping point toward German reunification and the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe.
It’s no surprise, then, that the wall's move has generated some conversation in the campus community.
"Does it need protection from the elements?," Jessica Brown asked on Capital's Facebook page.
"I was at Cap the other day," Austin Brown commented. "I do like how it looks and it brings color to that side of campus. But couldn't we also commission artwork from our own art department too?"
"The wall was outside for roughly 50 years in Berlin …," Andrew Floor noted.
Indeed, the University is one of many keepers of Berlin Wall sections. The East German government's announcement on November 9, 1989, that citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin eventually led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then, dozens of wall sections have been distributed to museums, universities, private collectors, libraries and communities around the globe, including the Wende Museum; Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies; Ronald Reagan Peace Garden at Eureka College, Ill.; Armory Square, Syracuse, NY; Kennesaw State University, GA; Winston Churchill Memorial Library at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri; Chapman University, in Orange, Calif.; and in New York; among many others.
Sections are displayed in courtyards, parks, gardens, urban streets, museum entrances, presidential libraries, and other public spaces, and approaches to their preservation vary greatly. Some employ an intentionally laissez faire approach, opting to let nature takes its course and weather the outdoor wall as it would had the wall been left in its original state. Others have commissioned artists, including some of the original graffiti artists, to re-paint the wall sections during commemorative events. Others still have taken the approach Capital has, which is to treat the concrete with special products designed to protect the wall and graffiti from the elements, and then to regularly monitor for signs of deterioration.
The University worked with Quandel Construction Group, in Worthington, Ohio, and Boone Concrete Restoration and Paul Construction, out of Zanesville, Ohio, to assemble a talented and experienced team to plan and carry out the extremely delicate process of moving the wall. In addition to its own contractors, Capital consulted with representatives from the following organizations, all of which display pieces of the wall and oversee their preservation:
- Newseum, Washington, DC
- Ronald Reagan Peace Garden at Eureka College, in Illinois
- Westminster College, Missouri
- The Wende Museum, Culver City, in California
- Kennesaw State University, in Georgia
- Armory Square, Syracuse, in New York
- Loyola Marymount University, in Louisiana
From start to finish, the move took more than seven hours. Prior to the relocation, the team repaired an existing crack in the back of the Berlin Wall with an epoxy injection resin to strengthen it and prevent further cracking. Color matching the epoxy makes the flaw is nearly impossible to spot. The resin also will limit future moisture infiltration.
Next, the wall was braced with structural steel angles to minimize stress on the piece, and with teamwork and precision, the wall was slowly lowered by forklift onto a mobile cart, moved along the campus pathway, and carefully situated in its new location in the courtyard south of Huber-Spielman Hall.
Two additional products are being used to seal the wall and preserve the concrete to limit moisture infiltration — LymTal and Sher-Clear. LymTal is a penetrating sealer and Sher-Clear is an acrylic coating installed over the graffiti portion of the wall to preserve and protect this surface from ultraviolet rays and to provide for easy removal of stains and other substances.
The result is a safe, stable new location where this piece of Capital and world history will inspire reflection, dialogue and appreciation of freedom over oppression for many years to come. Watch the video below to see history in motion.