Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A New Formula:

A Behind the Scenes Look at the Wagner's

Building Conservation Plan

An Illustrated Presentation by Architectural Conservators

Dorothy Krotzer and Marlene Goeke

4:00 - 7:00 PM

Lecture at 5:30 PM

Marlene Goeke surveys the Wagner Free Institute's exhibit hall ceiling.

As one of America’s oldest cities, Philadelphia has some of our nation’s oldest buildings. Have you ever wondered how these buildings endure time and the elements or how people in the historic preservation field work to save these testaments to our heritage? At this lecture, learn more about the intriguing field of architectural conservation, a profession that blends science, history and design in order to understand why buildings deteriorate and what can be done to save them.

An introduction to historic preservation concepts will provide a backdrop for discussing the architectural conservation field. The talk will focus on how conservators investigate historic buildings and the diagnostic tools they use in the field and laboratory to develop solutions for restoration projects. Illustrated with examples from projects at buildings such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, PA, the Music Building at the University of Pennsylvania and New York’s Grand Central Terminal, the speakers will discuss various aspects of the investigative process, including archival research, conditions assessments, materials analysis, non-destructive testing, and treatment development.

The Wagner occupies its original building, a National Historic Landmark, which was erected during the Civil War. It includes a Victorian-era Exhibition Hall displaying more than 100,000 natural history specimens and a 500 seat lecture hall. The museum exhibits are nearly unchanged since the 1880’s and include cherry wood and glass cabinets, as well as hand-written curator’s labels. The three-story space is capped by a dramatic, barrel-vaulted ceiling supported by remarkably light-weight arched trusses, a feat of engineering that paved the way for larger spanning trusses later in the century, such as those in the Reading Terminal.

Preserving this space is essential to the Wagner’s mission but poses unique challenges -- the roof must be repaired while leaving the collections undisturbed in place below. The talk will include a discussion of the recently completed Exhibit Hall Ceiling Conservation Plan, which compiles nearly four years of research and study dedicated to preserving one of the country’s most spectacular museum interiors.

Dorothy Krotzer is the Director of the Philadelphia office of Building Conservation Associates (BCA), a consulting firm that assists in all aspects of building restoration.

Marlene Goeke is a staff conservator at BCA and a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate Program in Historic Preservation.

Dorothy Krotzer and Marlene Goeke led the project team that recently completed a multi-year assessment and planning study for the repair of the Wagner’s plaster ceiling. The project received significant support from the Getty Foundation, the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Heritage Philadelphia program, and the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program through the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. They have worked on conservation projects across the country, especially in Pennsylvania and the southeastern United States.






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