Long Beach Public Library WPA Mural Preservation and Restoration

The mural was painted in 1937 by Suzanne Miller under the auspices of the Work Project Administration Federal Art Project (Federal Art Project – FAP, Works Progress Administration -WPA).

Long Beach WPA Murals Before Conservation

These 9 sections of the mural are titled “Scenes From English Literature.” The 9 panels depict 15 scenes from English Literature: Hiawatha by Longfellow (panel 1), The Fairie Queene by Spencer (panel 2), Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (panel 3), L’allego & Il Penseroso by Milton, The Vicar of Wakefield by Goldsmith, and Rip Van Winkle by Irvins (panel 4), The King James Bible (panel 5), Alice in Wonderland by Carroll, Man With the Hoe by Markham, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Gray and The Compleat Angler by Walton (panel 6), The Lady of Shalot by Tennyson (panel 7), The Tempest by Shakespeare (panel 8), The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (panel 9).

The original library was originally across the street in Lincoln Park in Long Beach. It burned in 1972.

In 1937, the murals were painted in oil on canvas and then glued to the wall of the library. After the fire, the 9 mural sections were pulled off the walls, repainted and glued to plywood… not good for long term preservation. After their restoration, the plywood sections were bolted to the walls of the Children’s Reading room at the public library located at 101 Pacific Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90882

As a result of the 1972 restoration, over the recent years the low quality varnish has yellowed badly changing all the colors… and water leaked onto the murals further damaging them.

Water stains, vast areas of fogged or bloomed varnish and crystallization of varnish resin.

One of the 9 sections of mural was badly wrinkled from the previous restoration.

Before and after relaxing and removal of wrinkles in mural section

The Mural Conservation Treatment Performed

So, present day, the City of Long Beach wanted to recuperate the original appearance of the murals and ensure their long term preservation. Fine Art Conservation Laboratories, a professional mural art conservation firm that had a long history of successful city, state and federal government mural restoration projects was contracted.

The cleaning process involved the safe varnish removal without removing the previous restorations. The original colors and details that were obscured were returned closer to their intended values, including better contrast and depth of field in the composition.

The badly wrinkled section was relaxed by warming and then reinforced for future stability.

Stable conservation grade varnish was brush applied to bring out the best appearance of the artwork.

We never use oil paint.

Inpainting or retouching is never done with oil paint. Conservation grade paint, which always remains removable and color stable, were used to correct or blend some of the previous restorations. New varnish provides for better surface protection against accidents and vandalism.

They are now ready for installation into the new public library facilities for the City of Long Beach, CA.

Questions: Scott M. Haskins, Virginia Panizzon, Oriana Montemurro Art Conservators 805 564 3438 faclartdoc@gmail.com



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About Scott M. Haskins

Scott Haskins has been in professional art conservation since 1975, specializing in the conservation/restoration of easel paintings, murals and art on paper. FACL, Inc. is known nationally for doing A+ work no matter the size or difficulty of the project. We are happy to do a quick cleaning on a family heirloom. Our client list and resume is also full of very satisfied clients of large, difficult/complicated projects at remote locations. Excellent services are also available as an Expert Witness/Legal Testimony in art related matters. Consultation on art related projects occur regularly including extensive insurance evaluations for insured or insurer. Services are offered worldwide. Scott M. Haskins is also author of the "Save Your Stuff" series, educational information, materials and supplies to help people protect and save their treasured family heirlooms and collectibles at home and office. He can be reached at 805 564 3438. Video and written testimonials at https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/testimonials/
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14 Responses to Long Beach Public Library WPA Mural Preservation and Restoration

  1. Maria Lima says:

    I work with FACL as an admin in a city other than Long Beach and they are great to work with. Their capability statement is no joke. They are the most professional, easiest to work with firm I have on my list of vendors… in fact, working with Scott has been a real pleasure.

    • Scott M. Haskins says:

      Thank you Maria for the very nice comment. We enjoy very much working with you and your office also. See you soon.

  2. Tammy Pierce says:

    I saw these murals being worked on and it was very cool to see them up close. The restoration process was meticulous and seemed to be very high quality. The restorers showed me the details of work and explained that they never put the paintings in danger and risk damaging them. It was very impressive.

  3. Scott M. Haskins says:

    Thanks for leaving your comment Johnny. I suppose they will be put into the new Children’s Reading room but I’m guessing.

  4. Kami says:

    I’m always impressed by your team’s talent, skill and your contribution to the preservation of art. All of you are truly amazing, especially you Scott!

    • Scott M. Haskins says:

      Thanks for the kind words and the nice comment Kami. I really appreciate your support and I love staying in contact.

  5. Loren Tasson says:

    Wow! Interesting! I love WPA art. Thanks for sharing this info. I’m going to post a live link on our site too…that is so cool!!!!!

    • Scott M. Haskins says:

      Loren, there are some new research efforts by the Feds over the last few years to gather in info, photos nd background info on WPA murals. Here is a newish website that’s gathering the info from the research: http://www.wpamurals.com

  6. Susan Cea says:

    Incredible job on the video and blog post Scott!!!!! Thank you for tagging and including me in it!!!! It was great to work with you.

  7. michael covington says:

    Nice work you guys. Impressive!

  8. Amber Watts says:

    So happy to be a part of these incredible people’s work! I’ve been an intern and this has been a wonderful experience.

  9. Jody Scott says:

    The internet is a great resource for information but it can be a bit overwhelming. After watching several videos on protecting public murals, I emailed Mr. Haskins with my concerns and questions and to my surprise, he contacted me within a few hours that same day. Not only that, but he left me his phone number to call and speak with him, which I did. I now have a course of action and feel confident that my project will last much longer and for years to come. A huge thank you!

  10. David Trojanoski says:

    I had recently finished a project , a large 6 by 4 oval outdoor sign, and wanted to protect it against the elements with several coats of varnish. I called the number provided and I spoke with Mr. Haskins. I cannot thank you enough for the great advice on which product to use, the informative tidbits regarding UV protection (or lack thereof), longevity of art materials, protecting my health as I work and much more. If you have a question, call! It’ll be a good talk session!

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