Golden Boy

Standing atop of the Legislative Building is one of Manitoba’s best-known symbols, the Golden Boy. The sculpture was cast in 1918 at the Barbedienne Foundry in Paris. Artist Charles Gardent first sculpted the primary model in 1917. Mounted on the very pinnacle of the Manitoba Legislative Building in 1919, the distinguished statue carries a sheaf of grain symbolizing the fruits of labour in one hand, while his other hand holds aloft a torch and, like the winged messenger of Greek mythology, he strides forward calling upon the youth of Manitoba to join in the pursuit of building a more prosperous future.

In October 2000, the Manitoba government embarked on the restoration and repair of the Golden Boy, because a careful examination and technical study of the statue revealed a need for major repairs and replacement of the central support structure. It was decided that the famous statue had to be taken down to ensure that it could be properly repaired and restored to ensure its integrity and safety for future generations. On February 9, 2002, the 1,650-kilogram (3,640-pound) Golden Boy was removed from his perch, and as a treasured historical icon, every precaution was taken during the process to protect the statue. Restoration was completed during the summer of 2002 and Golden Boy was reinstalled in September 2002, in time for the visit of Queen Elizabeth.

ISIS Canada designed and installed a structural health monitoring system for Golden Boy, consisting of three types of gauges: accelerometers, strain gauges, electric resistance and fibre optic, and temperature sensors.

Two accelerometers placed at the top of the column that supports the statue will measure the beat, or vibration, of the Golden Boy. The top of the support column inside the Golden Boy comes to about chest height, close to where the Golden Boy’s heart would be if it were human. Just like measuring the human heart rate provides us with valuable health information, measuring the beat rate provides valuable structural health information. If the accelerometers give a reading outside the normal range, further examination into the health of the structure is required. The accelerometers measure movement in three directions. As wind and various weather systems cause the Golden Boy and his support column to move or vibrate, the accelerometers will detect these motions.

The second type of gauge will measure strain. Strain is caused in the support column by the action of the wind on the Golden Boy. The strain gauges will be placed in several locations around the support column, near the foot on which the Golden Boy is standing. A combination of strain gauges and Bragg grating fibre optic sensors will monitor normal ranges of strain on the column support. If the strain readings fall outside the normal range, an alert is provided to potential structural health issues well before a major problem develops.

Temperature sensors are the third type of gauge used on the Golden Boy. These will measure temperature, which has a direct effect on the material properties of the column.

With access to these three state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, the Golden Boy’s health will be well monitored. This is a very important step for moving the care of the statue away from a high cost, acute care method of maintenance towards a more cost efficient, preventative health care model of maintenance. Much like today’s surgery techniques, structural health monitoring of the Golden Boy is non-invasive to the statue itself. The sensors are mounted on the support column only.