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Historic New England receives matching grant to support access to renowned wallpaper collection

Waterhouse wallpapers
Examples of wallpapers in the Waterhouse Archive

Boston – October 2012 - Historic New England has been awarded a $142,559 matching grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support a two-year project to provide expanded and improved public access to its nationally significant wallpaper collection.

When the project is completed, more than 6,000 historic wallpaper records will be accessible as high-resolution zoomable images for students, homeowners, textile experts, interior designers, researchers, and staff at other historic house museums. This collections access project includes the cataloguing, digitizing, and re-housing of 2,000 samples from the Waterhouse Archive of Historic Wallpapers, collected by Dorothy S. Waterhouse, founder of Waterhouse Wallhangings, a company that specialized in reproducing historic wallpaper designs.

The project will also make accessible related historic photographs, wallpaper samples books, and wallpaper ephemera. “By adding to the collections available online and enhancing the search and browse capabilities, this project will introduce new audiences to wallpaper and its role in American and New England history,” said Historic New England President and CEO Carl R. Nold. The project will complete digitization and cataloguing by January 2014 and final web improvements by July 2014.

The $142,559 matching grant is one of 152 grants awarded by the IMLS from 470 applications. Fund raising is underway to match the funds for the project.

Historic New England began collecting wallpapers in 1911, when William Sumner Appleton, who founded the organization, added thirty-nine wallpaper samples to the collection. Today that collection is one of the largest and best documented in the nation and is currently the most highly visited collection on Historic New England’s website. The collection displays extraordinary depth, with a complete range of designs available from the eighteenth century to the twentieth century. In addition to papers that came off the walls of buildings, the collection includes wallpapers used to line trunks, cover bandboxes, and decorate fireboards. As part of Historic New England’s strategic agenda to make its collections more broadly accessible, creating enhanced web access to this collection will enable the public to explore the organization’s vast and diverse resources.


About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Through grant making, policy development, and research, IMLS helps communities and individuals thrive through broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning.

About Historic New England
Historic New England is the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the nation. We bring history to life while preserving the past for everyone interested in exploring the authentic New England experience from the seventeenth century to today. Historic New England owns and operates thirty-six historic homes and landscapes spanning five states. The organization shares the region’s history through vast collections, publications, public programs, museum properties, archives, and family stories that document more than 400 years of life in New England. For more information visit

Media contact: Susanna M. Crampton 617-994-5955


Historic New England receives matching grant to support access to renowned wallpaper collection