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August 9, 2011

When Grime Pays: A Colonial Williamsburg Conservator Takes a Fresh Look at Restoration

Restoring an object while preserving the historical record inscribed in old surfaces is often a challenge. However, John Watson, Colonial Williamsburg conservator of instruments and mechanical arts, explores new conservation approaches to restoration in the program, “Conservation and the Paradox of Restoration,” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, 325 West Francis Street. Using new methods, conservators are able to preserve not just the beauty or function of old things, but the record of history within them.

Watson is Colonial Williamsburg’s conservator of instruments and mechanical arts and associate curator of musical instruments. His work has focused on the special problems of preserving “objects in use” and the special challenges of restorative conservation. His book, “Artifacts in Use: the Paradox of Restoration,” was published last year and explores the separate spheres of conservation and conventional restoration.

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

Conservation support is provided by Mr. and Mrs. Rex A. Lucke of Elkhorn, Neb., the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mildred and J.B. Hickman Conservation Endowment Fund and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowed Conservation Fund. Charles and Dorothy Freeman of Stone Mountain, Ga., also have provided support for John Watson’s work.

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

Leroy Graves, Colonial Williamsburg conservator of upholstery, will present the next lecture in the series, “Reading the Evidence,” at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15.

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