When members of the parish church in Harju-Risti were clearing off the attic of the church in 2010, they found a tin tub. At first it seemed to be a usual junk item that had been stored in the attic but at closer inspection in the yard a rusty metal memorial wreath with a ribbon was discovered in it.
One of the only four untouched monuments to the War for Independence is in the Risti churchyard and it remained there throughout the Soviet period. The monument made by a local master was made of the so-called Vasalemma marble and unveiled on 29 June 1924. Obviously the War Ministry of the Republic of Estonia presented the wreath just on this occasion.
The wreath is quite unique, as no other of its kind has survived. It is possible that they simply disintegrated but may have been destroyed in the 1940s up to 1950s, together with the monuments to the War for Independence. The Risti wreath must have been hidden when dangerous days started.
Description of the wreath’s condition before conservation
The construction of the wreath was whole. Maple leaves made of reinforced tin had been tied onto an oval of thick wire in bunches of five and form the bushy backdrop for the wreath. In addition to these bunches twigs with birch- and laurel leaves and various flowers (callas, lilies, roses and ‘white’ hepaticas) complemented the composition.
The reinforced tin tub was rusty and the glass cover had two panes missing. The green paint on the leaves had preserved well and some bigger corrosion spots were visible only on their backs. The paint on flowers had cracked and was loose.
A 17-cm-wide ribbon in national colours had been attached to the wreath. The silk of the ribbon bore an inscription in black India ink, “To the fallen heroes of Risti from the Ministry of War”. The cotton part of the ribbon was stained, torn and rust-spotted. The silk had faded and its original blue was seen only inside the folds.
The Risti parish wanted the wreath to be conserved so that it could be displayed permanently in the church. The ring, leaves and flowers were cleansed of rust. The loose paint was removed from the flowers and the losses were toned to unify the visual whole.
The restoration of the ribbon of the wreath was most complicated. Needle and thread were no good for fixing the damaged cotton fabric and stiff silk. The conservation required processing that would warrant the ribbon hanging freely when displayed. The ribbon was cleansed of dust with a static brush. The cotton part of the ribbon was backed with polyester veil Hollytex (32 g/square cm). The original and backing were stuck together with BEVA glue on a vacuum-table. For fixing the silk we decided to cover it with glued netting. The glue was a mixture of thermoplastic acrylics Lascaux 360:498:water (1:1:5). The conserved wreath was returned to the Risti church in June 2014 when 90 years had passed from the unveiling of the monument to the War for Independence.
The wreath was conserved by Heige Peets (metal and ribbon), Helmut Välja (the surrounding tub), Ingrid Pihelgas, Johanna Laidma (colouring), the woodwork and installation were completed by Viljar Talimaa and Tiit Hindpere.