THE IN-SITU CONSERVATION TREATMENT OF A NINETEENTH-CENTURY FRENCH SCENIC WALLPAPER: LES PAYSAGES DE TÉLÉMAQUE DANS L'ILE DE CALYPSO
Doris A. Hamburg
3 HISTORY OF PRESERVATION
As indicated above, the central hallway extends the full depth of the house with doors at either end. Tour visitors continued to use these doors regularly until 1978. Over the many years fluctuations in humidity and temperature caused severe deterioration in the condition of the friable paints and paper. There were also some leaks in the ceiling. Photographs from the end of the nineteenth century depict the already deteriorated condition of the paper, with portions detached and flapping in the breeze. Visitors have often touched the wallpaper as well as taken souvenirs. The stair area particularly suffered from abrasion due to visitors passing against the wall.
Documentation regarding early care of the wallpaper is minimal. Throughout the years several people have retouched deteriorated areas. In 1930 James B. Wilson directed the removal of the paper from the walls, at which time it was lined with a wood pulp paper secondary support and then canvas and reattached to the walls. A cross-section of the layers would reveal plaster wall, canvas backing, secondary backing support, original primary support printed image, and/or overpaint.
In an effort to reduce abrasion damage to the wallpaper, non-glare plexiglas was installed following structural restoration of the mansion in 1971. However because the plexiglas was installed directly against the paper (omitting an air space for proper air circulation), condensation, waterstaining and mold growth on the paper resulted. The plexiglas was removed and upon examination in 1978 the plaster was found to be dry and the mold no longer active.
The Telemachus wallpaper has suffered substantially over the years. In choosing the most appropriate action for preserving the hallway's appearance, reproduction of the wallpaper or removal of the paper for treatment would have proven too costly and impractical. After discussion among curators and conservators,8 it was decided to treat the Telemachus wallpaper in situ. The dado, which is thought to have been installed since Jackson's death, was not to be treated as little original paint remains following a complete overpainting in the 1960's.