“Work today to breathe better tomorrow”

As you might have heard, the Barker Mansion has been closed since January 21st for a bit of restoration work. There is always as similar question the staff and I are asked; “so what do you do then? Do you actually work?”

Oh yes.

The past two months have been filled with projects. While this is supposed to be our slow season, the staff are gearing up for what lies ahead. Rooms have been cleaned from floor to ceiling. We created a preservation room on the second floor where our Christmas ornaments were previously housed. This new room will serve as a station for working on artifact cleaning, preservation and further interpretation. Tapestries were taken down, vacuumed, and placed on rest now reside in a corner of the room. The smell of Renaissance Wax still lingering from a project completed a few minutes ago. The trash filled with dirty q-tips, rusty staples, crumpled paper and several pairs of Nitrile gloves. To me, this room symbolizes what I hope the mansion can be- a research center. A place where our events serve the public and act as a gateway into another time and place. I want students to use our reading room as they use our archives. This preservation room is an a sense, where artifacts will come to be rejuvenated and where exhibits will be created.

This preservation room isn’t the only place where things have been cleaned up. Yesterday our staff took on a series of massive projects on the first floor. We noticed that our sinuses buzzed and noses immediately stuffed up when we entered the library. Staff heard crunching when they stepped on the carpet. When the carpet was lifted, the carpet pad had degraded to a hard chip that flaked off and powered. It had to go.

 

 

Staff vacuum up the powdered carpet pad with a handy wet/dry vac
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Putting the Puzzle Back Together

At the start of February 2019, rooms on the first and second floors of the Barker Mansion were emptied of their artifacts so work could be done on the original plaster ceilings. Now, a month later, it is time to put the rooms back together. I will be the first to admit that I assumed this meant we would be putting the rooms back to how they were one month ago, with maybe a few small changes in the placement of some artifacts. However, when we began putting the Morning Room on the second floor back to rights on Wednesday, I was surprised at how many differences there were between the older historical photographs of the room and how we had it set up before renovations. Now don’t misunderstand, we had the room set up in a way that was as historical as possible based on photographs, but there are at least two distinct time periods in our historical photographs of the Morning Room. The first, pictured below, shows the Morning Room set up as more of an office with a large desk, chairs, and a table.

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This photograph also shows the fireplace and bookcases crowded with pictures and other knickknacks.

The next photograph, which is closer to how we had the room prior to renovations, show the second time period where the Morning Room is arranged more as a sitting room with a couch and chairs in front of the fireplace. There are also significantly fewer photographs and knickknacks on the fireplace and shelves in these photographs.

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As we looked at the photographs, we made the decision to represent both eras, which meant a bit of fast thinking. One of the key pieces in what we believe to be the earlier era of the room was a large desk that sat near the door. Unfortunately, we no longer have this desk or the chair that went with it. In the end we decided to represent the desk by moving in a smaller table, original to the spot in yet another photograph, to represent the desk that was once in the room. Luckily we have many of the items that are depicted as being on the desk in the photographs, so we will be able to set the table up as the desk was many years ago. There will be a few other small changes, but the couch and chair from the second set of photographs will remain in front of the fireplace as they were before renovations.MR4

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While researching what to put into the Morning Room, I came across photos of another room on the second floor. The Monuments of Paris Room has long been one of my favorite rooms at the mansion. Originally this room served as the childhood bedroom for Catherine Barker until it was later changed into more of a sitting room for the connecting Marie Antoinette Room. Ever since I found the first picture of the Monuments Room depicted as Catherine’s childhood bedroom nearly two years ago now, I have been curious if there was a way to make it look that way once again. Seeing this same photograph this week, while in the middle of discussing the changes being made to another room, I decided to propose the idea of making the Monuments Room a bedroom again to my director. After some discussion over what would need to be moved into the room, we decided that it was more than possible to create a resemblance of Catherine’s childhood bedroom.

In the first two photographs below, you can see the original furnishings of Catherine’s bedroom. Unfortunately we do not have many pieces of this set remaining, so we improvised. The twin bed you see in the third photograph is one of two from the Old Master Bedroom and is a rather close match to Catherine’s original bed with only a few minor differences. The fainting couch along the wall as well as the dresser table and mirror are two original pieces of this room, though the mirror was originally attached to the table.

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Though we do not have all of the original items from the Barker’s time period to decorate these rooms, what we do have is more than enough to accurately portray the story of the Barker family. It has been a rather exciting adventure to put the puzzle of the Barker Mansion back together!

Until next time!

Heritage Interpreter Jackie Perkins