This morning, I told you that Northampton Couny administrators have been moving at a glacial pace at finding a new home for the Northampton County Liberty Bell. Well, now my bell just rang. Director of Court Services Mary T. Ensslin called to announce that finally, the Historical Artifact Display Task Force was actually going to have a meeting. When? Thursday, a few hours before the County Council meets and is presented with a Resolution asking administrators to do something about the Northampton County Liberty Bell and Declaration of Independence. Hmmm.
I don't want to be unfair, but it's pretty clear to me the only reason Ensslin has finally scheduled a meeting is to diminish political fallout from her total disregard for our history. I don't know why she needs a "task force" to decide our Declaration of Independence should not be lying on its side in a hallway. It's obviously a sham meeting by a sham task force that had to wait until Court Administrator Onembo got back from Australia so that it can recommend whatever the judges want. Rumor has it judges might not like an old bell interfering with the motif of the new courthouse, where the rotunda looks like a giant crayon sharpener.
For years, there has been a judicial stranglehold on the executive branch in Northampton County. To his credit, Exec John Stoffa has been trying to establish that he makes the administrative decisions - not the judges. But subordinates like Ensslin, who are looking to their future, are trying to ingratiate themselves with politically powerful judges. It's sad to see a national treasure like the Northampton County Liberty Bell ignored. It's even sadder to think this might be the case simply so someone can curry favor with the courts in her quest to become the next county executive.
When Ensslin last ran for County Council, her winning theme was "Working day to day, helping taxpayers cut through government bureaucracy." How are you doing that, Mary? First one committee. Then two committees. Then a task force. A lot of energy has been spent to set up meetings. But none spent to deal with the problem.
The Northampton County Liberty Bell is housed in a wooden display case, as you can see above. Over the years, pieces of wood have been replaced as the situation warranted. But Ensslin seems to think it important to preserve the wood, and has suggested the Bell be kept in darkness. This, of course, is ridiculous. Even Philadelphia's Liberty Bell is exposed to the light, and a glass case enclosure only became necessary after some nitwit slammed it with a sledgehammer.
But to be on the safe side, I asked a distinguished chemist at PSU (who just happens to be my son) whether exposing the Northampton County Libery Bell in the rotunda of the new government center would present any problems. This is what I learned:
Hey dad, maybe this will help: Brass is a combination of copper and zinc (usually 50% or more copper and 20% or more zinc), with a few other metals added for strengthening, and as with all metals or alloys, they can oxidize (rust, or tarnish). Brass is particularly popular because it has a relatively slow oxidation rate, it will stay shiny longer than some other metals without the need of polish, but like any metal, it will need polish now and again. The ONLY way to preserve a brass bell, and keep it from tarnishing (which can easily be washed with a strong acid) is to keep it in a container free of oxygen (an inert environment, possibly under nitrogen gas). Light has absolutely nothing to do with brass tarnishing, it is oxygen that causes the problems, so unless the bell is in a crate free of oxygen, the preservation they are attempting is doing no good at all. In addition, if this specific brass alloy contains aluminum (as many do) then the aluminum reacts with the air to form a very thin protective coating (invisible) on the outside of the brass, which protects it from tarnishing.
Hope that helps, bottom line is oxygen is the bad guy, sunlight plays NO part in tarnish, or oxidation as chemists like to say.