The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, a popular monument that stands across the street from the State House, will be taken down so it can be repaired and restored, officials said Tuesday.
The bronze and stone sculpture, which was first unveiled in 1897, will be removed from its base and taken to an offsite conservation studio so it can be restored and a new concrete foundation can be built. The work is scheduled to start in the spring and should take five to six months to complete, according to a National Park Service news release.
On Tuesday morning, local leaders gathered at the memorial to talk about the $2.8 million restoration project and the launch of a new augmented reality app that offers visitors a new way of experiencing the memorial. They also unveiled new interpretive signage that will be installed at the site while the monument is being restored.
An augmented reality version of the memorial with information about the renovations and the history behind the memorial can be accessed by downloading the Hoverlay app and tuning into the +ShawAndThe-54th channel, Susan Abell, director of communications for Friends of the Public Garden, said Tuesday.
“We knew that when the memorial is going to go through the restoration progress, it will be gone . . . and this is a way for people to be able to understand the story and see the memorial,” she said.
Rose Fennell, the deputy regional director for the northeast region of the NPS, spoke of the significance of the memorial, which honors the first regiment of black troops recruited in the North to fight in the Civil War.
“These men were not conscripted. They volunteered,” she said. “These soldiers wore the uniform of a country that did not recognize them as citizens, nor even acknowledge their humanity, yet they dedicated themselves to the nation’s survival knowing that victory in war would lead to the emancipation of millions.”
Other speakers included Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden; Marita Rivero, executive director of the Museum of African American History; Boston Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ryan Woods; and Danielson “Donny” Tavares, the chief diversity officer for the city of Boston.
Rivero described the memorial as “a magnificent piece of public art that represents our national fight for all to have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” She also noted the role it has played in furthering public discourse.
“This monument is a source of inspiration and strength,” she said. “It remains as ever a platform and public invitation to discuss the issues of racial equity and human rights. It encourages us to engage in shaping a national public narrative, one we enlarge together by expanding our understanding of the contributions all of us have made to American history.”
Tavares called the monument to the 54th Regiment “one of the greatest memorials we have here in America” and said it will be missed during the restoration process.
“This memorial, these men, and the history remind us that none of us are bystanders to the issue of race and injustice in America,” Tavares said. “We are all profoundly affected by it, and doing nothing is not an option.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh signed a memorandum of understanding for the project in July 2018. Officials said at the time they hoped renovations would begin this past spring.
The memorial, created by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, depicts Colonel Robert Gould Shaw on horseback and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment marching down Beacon Street on May 28, 1863, as they left Boston to head south.
The 54th Regiment went on to lead an assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina, where many members of the unit, including Shaw, were killed.
Sergeant William H. Carney was severely injured in the battle yet still managed to save the regiment’s flag and was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.