Bandboxes, a cylindrical wooden wallpaper block, samples, and pamphlets illustrate the diversity of SPNEA’s wallpaper collection.
SPNEA’s Kristina Durocher and Pilar Garro prepare to photograph an English embossed paper sample dating from 1897, part of the stock of the Boston interior decorating firm, A.H. Davenport and Company and Irving and Casson.
Technology plays a key role in SPNEA’s mission to make its collections accessible. Every piece of wallpaper in SPNEA’s nationally significant holding of historic wallpapers is currently being catalogued and digitally photographed for interactive web pages, scheduled to go online at SPNEA’s website, www.spnea.org, next year. The collection, an important record of the domestic culture and consumer history of New England, contains over 8,000 samples dating from the 1750s to the present and includes fragments from historic buildings, unused rolls, coverings of bandboxes and books, trunk linings, and manufacturers’ sample books. The availability of this important resource has hitherto been limited; soon, anyone with Internet access will be able to study these fragile historical documents.
The development of the web pages has been funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Staff are now photographing the wallpaper samples with a digital camera connected to a computer. To ensure color accuracy, the monitor is calibrated and all images are color balanced using a neutral gray tone. The database is cross referenced, so that researchers will be able to search by country of origin, manufacturer (when known), where the sample was used, date, printing type, and style. Hundreds of late nineteenth-century interior photographs showing wallpaper in situ, from SPNEA’s Library and Archives, will be included to provide historical context. In addition, there will be an interactive time-line of the history of wallpaper in New England, care and conservation information, children’s activities, and a list of resources with links to wallpaper manufacturers and suppliers. The web pages will dramatically increase use of the collection as a research tool for historic home owners, historical societies, museums, and scholars and will minimize handling of the originals, which will ensure their long-term preservation.