Civil and Environmental Engineering


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Cultural Heritage 20 (July–August 2016), pp 641–648.

doi 10.1016/j.culher.2016.02.001


Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Masson SAS. Used by permission.


The seismic protection of cultural heritage, particularly statues, is a critical issue due to its high cultural significance, difficulty to repair or replace artifacts, and observed poor behavior during past earthquakes. Recent research has explored analysis techniques and methodologies for predicting the seismic response of statues; however, these studies typically assume the statue to be either freestanding or rigidly attached. The seismic response of statues with these different boundary conditions varies widely and therefore accurate characterization is critical. While modern mounting techniques aim to rigidly attach a statue to the floor or to a pedestal, the degree of rigidity of the as-built system may vary greatly, particularly for large and heavy statues, which are difficult to mount. To this end, experimental modal analysis and system identification were conducted on six statues while in their installed condition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, California. The tested statues were large, typically stone, and restrained with different mechanisms for comparison. The statue-pedestal-restraint systems were observed to be quite flexible with natural frequencies as low as 3 Hz. However, certain systems, which incorporated an embedded base of the statue, were much stiffer with frequencies around 14 Hz. It is noted that this type of testing requires significant contact and excitation of the statue. This rare opportunity to work directly with the statues resulted in a valuable dataset summarizing their dynamic characteristics for museum engineers and curators. In cases where rigidity is not attained, there is concern that the statue’s natural frequency may be too close to that of the anticipated floor motions. For this reason, a simple and non-intrusive base isolation system is detailed. This system was further verified through shake table testing and is shown to sufficiently reduce earthquake demands to the statue.