Colonial Williamsburg® The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's Official History and Citizenship Website

Page content
Reset text sizeResize text larger

May 17, 2011

Presentation at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg Reveals How the Boston Museum of Fine Arts Built Its New Wing One Period Room at a Time

Gordon Hanlon, head of furniture and frame conservation at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, gives an overview of construction of that museum’s new addition during the presentation, “Old Walls within New – Installing Period Rooms in the New American Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,” at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 26 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Art Museum’s Hennage Auditorium.

In November 2010, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts opened its new wing devoted to the Art of the Americas, completing a 10-year project to expand and reorganize the east side of the museum. Hanlon relates many interesting discoveries made during construction such as the timber-framed room found to be installed incorrectly in the 1920s. Original paint colors in several of the rooms were revealed after careful analysis of paint layers that allowed for historically accurate repainting of the woodwork and walls in three rooms. The development of new systems for the safe and reversible installation of historic interiors within new buildings also will be discussed.

The new wing, designed by London-based architect Lord Norman Foster, includes nine period rooms and three architectural doorways, all reinstalled between 2009-2010. The rooms range in style from the massive timber-framed Brown Pearl Hall of 1704 to the bold applied moldings and carvings of two rooms from an 1840 Greek Revival house installed in the museum for the first time.

Prior to demolition of the old east wing built in the 1920s, 18 period rooms, both American and European, were deinstalled. The project began with extensive detective work to discover how each room had been installed nearly a century ago and therefore how each could be safely dismantled and reinstalled.

Each room required years of study to fully understand the many intricate issues from both a conservation and curatorial perspective. Detailed planning and documentation ensured that hundreds of pieces of woodwork from each room, as well as their fireplaces, could be reassembled safely within the architecture of the new wing. The project involved the collaboration of an array of professionals and specialists including architects, architectural woodwork, historic carpet and wallpaper specialists, masons and even glass blowers who reproduced glass globes for one of the chandeliers.

This Distinguished Scholar Lecture is funded by the Horatio Hall Whitridge and Gracia Grieb Whitridge Lecture Series Endowment.

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

Admission is included in Historic Area and Museum admission passes.

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 are 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