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That was quite a moment, Mr. Horton says.

The day became a national holiday of sorts. Along with the large crowd, Congress celebrated the bicentennial of the Capitol itself. Mr. Clinton also gave a speech about the event, and poet laureate Rita Dove read a poem she had written.

The curator of the Capitol’s office, under the direction of acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers, conducts cleaning projects every two years, with this year’s project slated to be finished in early August. Once the project is finished, the scaffolding will return to its storage space inside the Capitol dome.

However, that routine may soon change. During the last cleaning, the crew used a new coating called Incralac, which, according to Ms. Wolanin, should last longer than other coatings.

The crew will begin by buffing the original surface of the statue and making it chemically clean. The bronze will then be treated with a special cleaner before the Incralac is applied using a scouring pad.

“The people doing the cleaning wash it with mild soap and hoses,” Ms. Wolanin says. “Now we’re also going to see how long the new coating lasts.”

The three-man cleaning team will also sharpen the lightning rods on the top of the statue’s head before they take the scaffolding down.

Ms. Wolanin, who has been with the curator’s office since 1985, says she has always been interested in conservation: “Part of the fun is getting up on the scaffolding, up close to the art.”