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From Mildenhall to America’s capital

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A former Mildenhall resident has played his part in history by helping President Barack Obama’s second inauguration go without a hitch.

Conservator Gordon Ponsford was contacted a week before the ceremony to stabilise a Bible, owned by Martin Luther King, which was used in the ceremony.

Mr Obama placed his hand upon the Bible, stabilised by Mr Ponsford, along with the Bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his inauguration in 1861, as he took the oath of office on Monday.

Mr Ponsford, who now lives in Atlanta, America, said working on the Bible was a ‘thrill you can’t describe’.

After growing up in Barton Mills, where his grandfather owned the garage which now sits on Fiveways roundabout, before moving to America at the age of 12.

Throughout his youth he planned to return to England and work in the bodyshop of his grandfather’s garage.

However his plan was scuppered after the family garage was sold following his grandfather’s death.

He then began pursuing an alternative career in restoration and conservation and started his own business in America.

During his career Mr Ponsford has worked on many of America’s most famous monuments and objects, including restoring the engraving of John F Kennedy’s inaugural speech, on his grave in Arlington National Cemetery,and he said working on important historical artefacts does not faze him.

“I do not think we get nervous, we’re confident of our ability. In conservation, in preservation, there are perimeters you work within.”

“When working on the artefact minimal intrusion and also minimal interaction of foreign materials you want to minimise what you are introducing to it keeping it as original as possible.” He said.

Stabilising Martin Luther King’s Bible in preparation for the inauguration, involved repairing the leather cover which had come away slightly from the pages.

Mr Ponsford said: “You are working on something that you know a King has held and used - it was his travelling Bible - was with him when he died.

“The writings in the margins those are wow periods you go wow look at those and then knowing that Obama’s putting his hand on it and swearing in there’s a thrill you can’t describe.

“I came from Mildenhall to here – my grandfather would have said ‘oh my God Gordon’.”

 

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