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September 7, 2011

Upholstery Conservator Follows the Evidence When Treating 18th-century Upholstered Furniture

David Blanchfield, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of conservation, discusses “Reading the Evidence: 18th-century Upholstered Chairs,” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

Reading the evidence on an altered or reupholstered piece of seating furniture is similar to conducting a forensic investigation. In addition to evidence surviving on bare or partially stripped frames, much information about early upholstery techniques also can be gleaned from textile fragments that were removed from furniture. Other types of documentation such as period paintings and prints provide a wealth of information that is useful in reconstructing the correct period appearance of a piece. Household inventories and custom orders from clients to merchants also are useful in ascertaining the original appearance of upholstered furniture and understanding how it coordinated with the overall decorating scheme.

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.

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

The year-long museum conservation lecture series ends with Chris Swan, Colonial Williamsburg conservator of furniture, who will present the last lecture, “Revealing Color in Early American Common Furniture,” at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13.

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