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Sunday, May 15 • 5:00pm - 5:30pm
(Wooden Artifacts) Ghostly Evidence: Interventions in a 20th century Installation of Asian Lacquer Panels

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Over the period 2007-2013 a campaign of research, documentation, and conservation treatment was undertaken for a group of 18th c Chinese lacquer panels - as well as an early 20th c panel added to the set - in the Breakfast Room of The Elms in Newport, Rhode Island. The Elms is a Beaux Arts mansion (1901) designed by Horace Trumbauer with interiors by Paris decorator Jules Allard for Edward Berwind, a coal magnate. It has been owned and administered by The Preservation Society of Newport County since 1962. The antique lacquer panels likely came from Canton to France in the mid-18th c as part of the China Trade. They probably enjoyed a period of high style in a Parisian town house; suffered subsequent degradation, salvage, and storage; followed by restoration/modification and reinstallation at The Elms. The work revealed a variety of techniques, repairs, and modifications using both Asian and Western materials and methods. Assumptions were made early in the examination that were refuted by evidence discovered later, with the greatest surprises found in the 20th century work. Cross section microscopy and scientific analysis that provided solid details about craft technique and materials was vital for the final interpretation, which also depended upon evidence provided by a collection of vintage photographs and the discovery of visual details previously unseen. All this provided material for an interesting and surprising chronology of construction and intervention by a cast of characters, some known, some intuited, and others of mysterious origin. This presentation will document the specifics of our dependence on the microscopy and the analysis for concrete details, the context of that work as we understood it to date, and especially the efforts of the somewhat ghostly practitioners whose evidence we see and interpret. It is hoped that future research will put flesh on their bones.


Melissa H. Carr

Masterwork Conservation
Melissa Carr trained as a chemist and cabinetmaker before completing her graduate work in the Furniture Conservation Training Program at the Smithsonian Institution’s Conservation Analytical Laboratory. She has also studied at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties... Read More →


Charles Moore

Conservator (Retired), Preservation Society of Newport County
Charles Jeffers Moore (Jeff) Mr. Moore was trained and employed for eleven years as a cabinetmaker - the last three years as Chief Carpenter of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Starting as the Furniture Conservator, and most recently Chief Conservator, he was employed at... Read More →

Sunday May 15, 2016 5:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
Room 514