Inside the Conservation Lab: Annunciate!

Mar 25, 2016

At the end of the nineteenth century, if you were sitting in the library at the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts, and wanted a cup of tea, you could press a call button on the wall. This button sent a signal to the kitchen, where an electric annunciator on the wall indicated which room gave the signal. This instrument, which worked on a low-voltage circuit and was created by Seth W. Fuller of Boston, was a considerable technological advance from the days of the bell pull.

These days, the kitchen at the Lyman Estate remains a busy space used by caterers preparing food for weddings and other functions. In order to protect the original object, Historic New England’s collection services team removed the annunciator from the kitchen and will install a reproduction in its place.

Making the replica required a team of skilled artists and craftspeople. The goal was to make the replica with as many of the same materials used in the original as possible. The black panel is reverse painted glass. To replicate this portion of the annunciator, local glass artist Linda Abrams created a new panel.

In order to make the room name tags, Colleen Mann, Historic New England’s staff photographer, shot a very high-resolution image of the original room labels. Conservators printed this photograph onto archival paper and inserted it behind the glass. Supervising Conservator Alex Carlisle worked with local craftsman and a volunteer, Frank Repensek, to replicate the complex wooden casing.

Check back over the next few weeks for details about constructing the case and a final view of the replica installed in the working kitchen at the Lyman Estate.

To support projects like this, please consider a donation to the Collections and Conservation Fund.