The first mural ever that I did art conservation treatments on was in my graduate program in Italy. The first week of school I was put onto scaffolding and sat down in front of a mural dated 1365 on a wall of a monastery built about the year 900. I sat next to Paolo Bacchin, a legend in international art conservation circles for work he had done for UNESCO on murals in temples in the jungles of Burma (now Myanmar). He was my instructor and introduced me to mural conservation.
Since that time, I have had mural restoration projects come to my labs from all over the United States, even internationally. Some of the projects have been high profile and others, like this project, were highly meaningful for a small rural community.
I happen to love Minerva Teichert’s work for the boldness of the style but also for her unsurpassable spirit and faith. Its amazing how commercially valuable her art has become within the affluent Mormon community. (Search historic LDS art or historic Mormon art) Such that these two murals were appraised for more than the value of the entire building they are located in!
The Tabernacle of the LDS Church (a convention center) in Montpelier, Idaho was built in 1918 and needed an upgrade to the systems of the building: new plumbing, electrical, sprinklers etc to bring the public facility up to code. Of course, with all the demolition going on, the two murals were at risk and so the oil on canvas’ glued to the walls were removed, brought back to our lab in Santa Barbara to receive cleaning and other conservation treatments (see video) and then reinstalled back into the original building.
Actually, the paintings were not original to the building but were added, I think, by Minerva in the 1950s’ when Minerva was in her early 60’s. Originally, they were painted, for a client in Wyoming, perhaps in the 30’s. That’s a supposition on my part, giving the mural’s some time to be installed in their original location, be part of that location and then for whatever reason moved to this location in Idaho. However, they could have been painted for a client that never took possession of them and then later the artist found this opportunity to have them installed close to her home town in a prominent location.
Here is a quick video of the removal process of the murals from the wall. All went smoothly and safely for the murals (which is why someone hires us!!). There’s a quick view of the work at Fine Art Conservation Laboratories and then we show the innovative anti-seismic reinstallation of the murals back into their previous locations. Perhaps people don’t think of eastern Idaho as an earthquake area but driving through the ancient lava fields in the area should give a clue. The architects and project manger of the work wanted the additional protection in case of this potentially catastrophic emergency.
All went very well with the work. It felt very satisfying to save and preserve this valuable cultural artwork and do something meaningful for this community in terms of historic preservation. I was also very happy to contribute to the saving of Minerva Teichert’s opus as she is one of my favorite artists of all time (Wow! That’s a bold statement.). I’ve been working on her paintings my whole career and ought to do a webpage featuring the art conservation projects of her artwork my labs have performed since 1978. Stay tuned…
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Scott M. Haskins, Art Conservator
805 564 3438
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