Ornamental Separator

Conserving the Carolina Room

On view in the Rex and Pat Lucke Gallery
The conservation of the Carolina Room was made possible by Mr. and Mrs. Rex A. Lucke of Elkhorn, Nebraska, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional conservation support is provided by the Mildred and J.B. Hickman Conservation Endowment and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowed Conservation Fund.

The Rex and Pat Lucke Gallery is home to a remarkable room from the Alexander Shaw House. A modest Scotland County, North Carolina, dwelling, its rooms were painted to simulate costly building materials such as cabinet-grade wood and polished stone. The pine doors and wainscoting were grained to look like bird’s eye maple and rosewood, while the baseboards and mantel were painted in imitation of colorful marble. Paint decoration at the top of the walls resembled the exuberant wallpaper borders of that day. Most unusual is the “Vue of New-York” above the mantel. It shows the city’s dockside in flames and was inspired by the fire that destroyed New York’s waterfront in 1835. The decoration was the work of I. M. Scott, who signed and dated the room August 17, 1836.

During conservation
After conservation

The woodwork recently underwent complex conservation to preserve, clean, and reveal its original decoration. The work took seven years and was carried out in the Colonial Williamsburg conservation labs. The project consisted of several phases. In the first, conservators reattached loose paint flakes. Next they carefully removed 1950s overpaint to reveal the 1836 decoration below. Soot and grime imbedded in the original paint were removed concurrently. Finally, losses to the decorative scheme were sparingly in-painted. Visitors today will find evidence of this exacting work on exhibition labels and in one area of the room, where the paint was cleaned but not in-painted.  Come and inspect the room and the conservation for yourself and see the 180-year-old decoration looking much as painter Scott intended.

Detail of painted border during conservation

UV photograph showing a cross-section of paint

Conservator Shelley Svoboda at work on one of the panels from the Carolina Room