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April 15, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg Paper Conservator Examines Rare Watercolor Portraits of Two African American Women

Pam Young, Colonial Williamsburg’s conservator of works on paper, discusses the history behind and the techniques used to conserve fragile watercolor paintings during the museum lecture, “The Conservation of Two Rare African American Watercolor Portraits.” The hour-long program is at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 21 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Art Museum’s Hennage Auditorium.

The two paintings that are the focus of Young’s presentation are the “Enslaved Girl” by Mary Anna Randolph Custis and “Portrait of an African American Woman” attributed to John Rose. “In general, 18th- and early 19th-century images of African Americans are rare, but these particularly so because, in each case, the depiction is sensitively rendered rather than made a caricature,” she said. “The individuals portrayed were known personally by the artists.”

Young joined the Colonial Williamsburg conservation department in 1994 as the first paper conservator. Her responsibilities include care of all works on paper and parchment within the Foundation’s various collections including decorative arts, folk art and the John D. Rockefeller Library’s special collections.

Young earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree in the conservation of art and historic artifacts from the State University of New York-Oneonta.

She served as an intern at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco and then worked at a regional conservation center in Oberlin, Ohio. Young established a private practice in Williamsburg in 1985 before joining the Foundation. She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation.

Young has had papers published in the International Institute for Conservation Conference proceedings, The Baltimore Congress 2002, the Book and Paper Annual, American Institute for Conservation, and Colonial Williamsburg, the journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

This is the fourth in a series of lectures on Colonial Williamsburg’s museums, collections and conservation that will be held through December 2011.

A Colonial Williamsburg admissions ticket, museum pass or Good Neighbor Card provides access to this lecture.

Programs and exhibitions at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are supported by the DeWitt Wallace Endowment Fund.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets in Williamsburg, Va., and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Museum hours 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121