Monday, September 28, 2009

Update from the Preservation Department

It's been a while since I have been able to post a Preservation Department update. Sorry about that, but it has been a busy few months. I am currently juggling the Southwest Outhouse restoration project and the Northwest Stair Passage restoration project.

The interns and I have been working hard in the Southwest Outbuilding to get the restoration completed by the middle of October. My two summer interns restored one window, leaving one to be restored. I was able to employ a fall intern, who is currently restoring that final window. We have been scraping paint, repairing plaster, and even getting some finish coats of paint on windows. Within the next week we should be able to start putting finish coats of paint on the walls and trim. In what will be the workshop and the bedchamber, the walls be painted with a simulated whitewash, while the trim and windows will be painted with a dark brown, which would have been considered "Spanish Brown" in the 18th Century. Spanish Brown was often used for baseboards and used if an outbuilding's interior elements were painted with a color. This was the case because it was cheap and hid dirt well. The last room, which has wood paneled walls, will be painted a blue-gray color with Spanish Brown baseboards. The brown being used was identified on some baseboards in the Great House from the same time period.

The Northwest Stair Passage project has been picking up momentum over the past couple of months. Most of the lingering questions have been answered, but there will always be some questions and speculation with projects like this one. We have been working closely with the project architect and the Historic Resource Advisory Panel in order to restore the stair passage accurately. The final construction documents are at the State DHR for review and we are hoping to begin construction very soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Temporary Exhibits

Judy Hynson and I are planning two temporary exhibits to go in our changing exhibition gallery in the Visitor Center. One exhibit space will be dedicated to visitors’ experiences at Stratford Hall. People have visited the Great House at Stratford from the late 1730s to the present for a variety of reasons. Fortunately for us, many of these travelers recorded impressions of their visits in writing and photographs. From these descriptions and mementos, we are better able to document the changes made to the interior and exterior of the house over the centuries.

We’re currently collecting photos of visitors to Stratford Hall, whether those photos were taken of people in front of the Great House or elsewhere on the historic site. This photograph was taken of some visitors in the 1920s and given to our collection. If you have any photographs—historic or current!—of you or your friends and family at Stratford Hall, please contact me at or at (804) 493-8038, ext. 1920. Judy and I are hoping to collect all sorts of visitors’ photos so we can display them.

The second exhibit we’re currently working on is about fossils that have been found at Stratford Hall. We’re looking forward to putting together some of our collections and working with Dr. Lauck Ward, from the Virginia Museum of Natural History, to identify various types of fossilized bones, sharks’ teeth, vertebrae, and shells from as far back as the Miocene era, 12-17 million years ago. Do you have fossils you’ve found at Stratford Hall that you’d like to donate to our collection? If so, please contact me.

We expect these exhibits to be completed and installed by the end of October 2009. Be sure to stop by and see them when you next visit Stratford Hall!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bird Update

It is the end of summer and as previously hoped, our Barn Swallow fledglings have moved on to warmer climates. While we surely miss watching the young birds learn to fly, I hope that they will not return next year to nest at Stratford Hall.

While the birds were in residence, it gave us the opportunity to conduct further research on how to properly decontaminate areas that are highly soiled with bird feces. Bird and bat droppings contain such disease organisms such as Cryptococcosis, Histoplasmosis, and Psittacosis. These organisms can cause potential respiratory problems in humans, so careful clean-up and precautionary measures must be taken when working with bird and bat feces. We will be wearing protective clothing and breathing apparatuses while working in the Outbuildings that the Barn Swallows chose as nesting areas on the estate. Our hope, along with restoring the areas to their prior cleanliness, is also to prevent future nesting to take place.

As a historic site opened to the public, we cannot use the common answers of installing plastic eaves and wire mesh to buildings to prevent future nesting. Thus, creative avenues of cleaning with non-toxic chemicals, using plastic owls and snakes as scare tactics, and staff vigilance in preventing re-nesting will hopefully do the trick! So please remember as you visit Stratford that we are in the process of cleaning and re-housing objects to make the visitor experience more enjoyable.