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Holocaust Memorial Mural Restoration
Randolph, MA - 8/2011
This extraordinary Holocaust Memorial Mosaic Mural designed and created in 1969 by artist David Holleman is located in an exterior courtyard at Temple Beth-Am in Randolph, MA.

All the tiles in this mosaic mural are ceramic tiles that were handmade by Mr. Holleman and set on marine plywood.

From afar the mural appeared intact. However, a closer look showed evident signs of deterioration. The mosaic was not withstanding the harsh New England weather conditions it has been exposed to. Some of the tiles started to fall; others still on the substrate were loose in spite of previous restoration attempts that became noticeable during this project (some white residue of thinset can be seen on some of the images, at the bottom section of the mural).

The marine plywood was originally covered with a black film (noticeable on the areas with missing tiles). The film was probably a guard against freezing/thawing surroundings. This (together with the tightly “knitted” setting of the mosaic tiles might explain why the mural lasted more than 40 years in spite of the type of substrate used.

Some of my fellow mosaicists deemed it very hard if not impossible, to fight the effects of nature and time on the plywood substrate this mural was created on, without resetting the entire mural on a new substrate. This option (although ideal and wisely recommended) would have led to an extremely long and costly project.  The ideal restoration option (resetting the whole mosaic on an exterior grade level substrate) was not an option at this time. Still, it was very important to the Beth-Am community, among which there are still some Holocaust survivors, to keep this mural alive both to preserve an artistically invaluable piece of mosaic art and to pay due respect to the Holocaust.  

The mural was meticulously cleaned. Then, the tiles that have fallen off, as well as the unstable ones, were set with high quality exterior grade thinset mortar. The entire mural was finally “grouted” with a thinset of unsurpassed strength, cleaned again, and sealed. We are confident that this restoration will keep this Holocaust memorial mosaic alive for many years to come.

Special thanks to my friend and colleague Cynthia Fisher for enthusiastically working with me on this restoration project.