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Conserving Our Painted Past 

Livestream Symposium


October 26 – 28, 2020

1-Deacon Bailey Hoouse Mural Portland, M
Sympsium Description

The first event of its kind, this Symposium will bring together practitioners in the care and conservation of painted walls to share case studies and discuss best practices. The preservation of early-19th-century painted decoration — which include murals, freehand brushwork, and stenciled decoration— becomes increasingly urgent over time, especially for walls in private homes. 

There currently are no conservation standards or ‘best practices’ to guide the care of painted walls and many techniques used over the years have resulted in disaster! The “Conserving Our Painted Past” Symposium will provide homeowners and conservators with reliable and responsible approaches to preserving extant wall decoration for the enrichment of future generations. A great lineup of prominent conservators, researchers, homeowners, and tradespeople will fascinate you as an extensive variety of different topics are explored and discussed. 

The Symposium program will survey the remarkable range of interior wall treatments practiced by early New England’s artist-decorators. It will highlight important new work in the technical preservation of decorated walls and celebrate the resurgence of custom wall and mural art in contemporary life.

Collapsed roof of the Batchellor House Chesterville ME.png

Water damage caused a roof collapse at the Batchellor House in Chesterville, ME.

Symposium Presentations

Keynote Speaker:  How to See

Stephen Score, Folk Art Expert and Antique Dealer  

Renowned expert in American Folk Art, Stephen Score takes us with him as he follows a road map to unexplored places filled with unclaimed treasure and shares how he learned to ‘see’!

Developing Preservation Strategies for Painted Walls

Dr. Jennifer Mass, Director, Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory

Preserving painted walls means identifying materials and techniques originally used. To preserve the original painted surface, materials that will not modify or interact with the original paint layers are needed. Rufus Porter, Jonathan D. Poor, and John Avery ‘s materials and techniques will be explored within this context.

The Real Value of Paint Decorated Walls to Homeowners

Linda Griffin, Real Estate Broker,

Many people do not understand the value of paint decorated walls in historic homes. After restoring her own home, Griffin then learned to sell older homes with original paint decorated interiors. She alerted potential buyers, urging them to appreciate the beauty of the original walls and she enjoys sharing that information

When and Why to Hire a Professional Conservator

Sue Blakney, Chief Conservator & Founder,

Recognized as a Fellow in the AIC and the IIC, Blakney has a passion for history, art, and culture. She and her firm treat easel paintings, murals, historic theater curtains, painted objects, works on paper, photographs and frames. Her experience includes assisting museum collections, historical societies and sites, colleges, universities, municipalities and private owners. She will share her personal experiences in treatments and problem solving. 

Conservation of the Decoratively Painted Plaster Walls and Ceiling: Reception Room Suite, Victoria Mansion, Portland, ME 

Siobhan Lindsay, Resident Conservator, Victoria Mansion 

This lecture will focus on the treatment of the decoratively painted plaster surfaces in the Victoria Mansion including conservation methods and materials used. It will address techniques for cleaning water soluble paint, re-adhesion of gilding and the reproduction of lost paint and plaster elements. 

Renovating the Middleton, NH, Town Hall 

Cheryl Kimball, Historic Preservation Advocate

Through eight years of efforts in renovations to the Middleton NH Town Hall built in 1798, Kimball focused on preservation while garnering community support and funds. As a result, the 1841 John Avery wraparound murals in the second-floor chapel are now entrancing visitors in the 21st century.

Conservation of Paint and Plaster

Tony Castro, Artisan, Decorative Painter, Tony Castro Company

A discussion on materials and techniques used in adhering loose plaster on ceilings and walls and consolidating flaking and chalking decorative paint. 


How Chemical Structures Affect How Light interacts to Produce Color  

David Dempsey, Conservator

Chemical structures determine how light interacts with objects to produce color. In turn, varying chemical pathways affect the durability and conservation of historic color.

Paint Archeology: Architectural Finishes Investigation  

John Vaughan, Principal, Architectural Conservation

 This presentation will share an overview of the process involved in the investigation of architectural finishes. Methodologies and processes utilized during both in situ and cross section lab analysis will be discussed with an emphasis on the discovery and uncovering of overpainted decorative finishes.

Seeing Through Wallpaper

Ron Kley, Consultant             

Many muraled, stenciled or freehand brushstroke walls have been discovered, and damaged, in the course of wallpaper removal. Simple and affordable application of thermal imaging technology offers possibilities for identifying painted designs hidden beneath wallpaper.


Conserving the Card Farmhouse Stenciled Wall Paintings

Katey Corda, Independent Art Conservator, Corda Conservation 

Two exquisitely stenciled, domestic murals in Charlestown, RI, circa 1836, depict George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. Sustaining damages, worm infestation and ethical questions of presentation-- conservation treatment presented challenges never before encountered.           

Valuing Historic Paint-Decorated Walls

Helaine Fendelman, Appraiser, Helaine Fendelman & Associates

Since auction sales for 19th century American paint decorated plaster walls are few and far between, how does one know what to look for and how to value these rarities.

Restoration of the Central Vault of the Church of Saint-Romuald

Sophie Roberge, Paintings Conservator, Centre de Conservation du Quebec  

With major conservation problems consisting of paint flaking, water stains, cracks and detached plaster, the treatment plan, process and materials used in the on-site restoration project undertaken by the Centre de Conservation du Québec (Canada) are discussed.

‘Less is More’ when Conserving Painted Plaster

Chris Thomson & Wanda Kochanowski, Conservators specializing in gilded and decorated furniture and surfaces

Most conservation or restoration treatments must include choosing material that will not alter the original surface. Microscopes allow sufficient examination for understanding all paint layers prior to mechanical work.

Moving Wonderland 

Nina Roth Wells, Paintings Conservator

Discussed is the removal, conservation and reconstruction of the Alice in Wonderland room formerly located in the Grace Burleigh home in Wayne, ME and now at the Cary Memorial Library in Wayne, ME.   

Outside In: The Interrelationship Between Conservation of Interior Finishes and The Building Envelope

Natasha Klemek, Kress Fellow in Architectural Conservation, Historic New England

More than the interior surface of decorative paintwork should be examined when planning conservation treatment. Maintaining the entire envelope of a building from gutters to wall structure is vital - especially if a car has just driven through your historic house!


Lost in Place: Saving Painted Wall Paintings

David Ottinger, Preservation Contractor 

Unlike most art, painted walls are dependent on the structure of buildings; this fact is a determinant for their survival. The presentation features case studies showing when, why and how painted walls are moved.    

Traditional Techniques Triumph in Plaster Repair. 

Brian Pfeiffer, Independent Architectural Historian & Founding Editor,  Archipedia New England (

Pfeiffer discusses and advocates for the use of traditional building materials and craft knowledge in the repair of historic buildings. With over 40 years’ experience, Brian has supervised architectural conservation projects for Historic New England, the Architectural Conservation Trust for Massachusetts, Preservation Massachusetts, Inc., Historic Boston, Inc., the Nantucket Preservation Trust, and private clients. 

Symposium Program
Additional Information

The CPWP is grateful for Symposium support from:

American Folk Art Society

Belvedere Traditional Handcrafts Fund, Maine Community Foundation

Davis Family Foundation

The Decorative Arts Trust

Historical Society of Early American Decoration

Whitney Fund Community Preservation Grant Historic New England

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