Park Service Conservators Clean and Repair Sitkas Totem Poles

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Date: August 19, 2013

PIO or Contact Person: Becky Latanich

Telephone Number: 907-747-0132

E-mail address:

SITKA NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK  (August 19, 2013) – National Park Service wood conservators Ron Sheetz and Al Levitan performed Sitka National Historical Park's first comprehensive totem pole condition survey 20 years ago. 

This week, these specially trained craftsmen return to the park to clean and conserve five poles along the Totem Trail, and train park maintenance staff on preservation processes.

The rainy climate of Southeast Alaska takes its toll on the park’s totem poles. Cracks in the poles fill with tree needles and lichen, trapping moisture in the closed areas and accelerating deterioration. Metal caps installed on the tops of the poles become worn or damaged by animals, allowing rainwater to seep into the center of the wood.

Experts in wood preservation, the conservators will wash the poles with a mild soap, remove residue of lichen growth, and then apply a fungicide, and water repellent They will remove organic material lodged in the cracks of the poles, and replace the damaged metal caps.

Several of the park’s totem poles include carved attachments such as beaks, fins, and ears. The conservators will stabilize loose appendages, and repair splits and cracks in the pieces. 

While the conservators will stabilize the carved features, carving repairs, like the massive Raven beak replaced recently by local Tlingit carver Tommy Joseph, are done by Native artists. 

Park maintenance staff will shadow the conservators' work on the totem poles, learning the preservation processes to complete scheduled maintenance in the future as a part of the park’s long-term care of the totem poles. 

The park’s trails will remain open as the conservators and park staff clean and repair the poles.


About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at visit our Facebook page:!/SitkaNationalHistoricalPark.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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103 Monastery St.
Sitka, AK 99835


(907) 747-0110

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