2017 marks 40 years of CCAHA. Every Friday, we'll share the articles, photos, and recollections that tell the story of how CCAHA became a world-renowned leader in conservation science.
The Athenaeum of Philadelphia’s Fall 1984 newsletter, Athenaeum Annotations, was a special conservation issue, highlighting the treatment of a recently-acquired collection of paintings and drawings of Thomas Ustick Walter, one of the foremost American architects of the 19th century.
Under the section entitled Restoration of Walter Drawings Continues, the newsletter discusses CCAHA’s work treating several hundred drawings by Walter. Most of the drawings had been stored for over 100 years in boxes that Walter himself had designed. Treatment was predominantly aimed at stabilizing the objects’ housing.
The newsletter also features a section written by then Executive Director Robert Moss called Profile of Project Funding. He wrote:
“The Thomas Ustick Walter drawings and manuscripts were the most expensive purchases for the collection in the 170-year history of this institution. And I am delighted to report that not one cent of the acquisition or conservation costs came from dues, endowment or program income of the society. The entire project was funded by special contributions and foundation grants.”
After listing the funders who made the purchase of the items possible, Moss discusses the difficulty of raising funds for conservation, writing, “It is one thing to raise acquisition funds when objects as important as these are endangered. It is something else to raise conservation funds when the drawings and manuscripts are happily secure in a fireproof, humidity-and-temperature-controlled vault.”
Nevertheless, the Athenaeum succeeding in securing the funds, and, as the newsletter notes, “Now maintained at a constant temperature and humidity—and protected from ultra-violet light—these drawings may be expected to survive for centuries to come.”