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Textile conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation at work

Friday, May 5, 2017

Great work Historic Woodstock!

It is at times like this that I truly love my job. 

I just returned from a visit to an amazing collection in a museum located in Woodstock, NY. Woodstock is known for many things, but less so for this incredible collection of artists' work consisting of paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, textiles, photographs, books, manuscripts, film/sound recordings, antique tools, and an extensive archives of all the other arts organizations in the community.  This group had an early connection to the inclusion of artists into the WPA during the New Deal years. The Historical Society of Woodstock was founded in 1929 by a group of artists, writers, academics and local citizens. The Society maintains its link to the community of artists who are still at work in this community.

Over the years I have visited the museum many times. As early as 2008 they had already begun the project of renovating and modernizing their historic structure, the Eames House. At this time, their collection had mostly been moved to a secure location where organization and data recording was done. 

No large project like this is simple or straightforward. Always there are many moving parts. However, this dedicated group sought funding from local groups throughout New York State; NYSCA, Get Set, Ready, Go in 2009; and on the federal level, from the Federal Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) in 2010; and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in 2016. Each assessment was used as a building block that allowed them to fulfill the promise of earlier recommendations.

I want to share the great work they have done by showing a few before and after images.

Temporary secured space in 2008 and 2017, east view. Now this section is used for town archives.
Temporary secured space in 2008 and 2017, west view. Now used only for painting storage.
 Love these chrome-coated steel wire shelving!
Notice the clip boards hanging on the shelves. From the beginning they were keeping track of collection locations.
In 2008 inventory lists were handwritten and now computer generated in 2017.
One of the very early painting storage that had been used in the Eames House. In 2008, only the wooden racks were present.
The same corner is now used for boxed archival storage (2017).
Eames House storage room in 2008 and 2010. Between the visits the walls were
insulated and painted. Now there are new insulated windows and light blocking shades.

At each visit there was always noticeable progress. 

Eames House, home of the Historic Society of Woodstock, in 2009 and 2017. The
addition positioned in a vulnerable corner provided a handicap bath room and a small kitchen.
 Eames House suffered water damage at this corner due to the sloping of the landscape,
adding to the high humidity levels inside. With the new addition, french drains were installed. 

The CAP was performed with Tilly Architects who gave them great guidance for how to improve the historic building while keeping its integrity. 

The dedicated group who did so much!  What a team.

Gwen Spicer is a conservator in private practice. Spicer Art Conservation specializes in textile conservation, object conservation, and the conservation of works on paper.  To contact Gwen, please visit her website or send an email.

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