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Protecting Murals During Construction

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    • #134828
      Andree Miller

      I am a curator in an historic house that is about to undergo some construction (updating electrical, repairs to floors, some plasterwork, painting) over the next four months. The museum is used as a gallery; it is not interpreted as an historic site. It has not been restored; it was renovated in the 1950s. Murals painted in the 1950s line the hallways and stairwell. The murals were painted on masonite and screwed in place; removing them and storing elsewhere is not an option. What kind of materials should we use to protect the murals during construction?

      The contract has been awarded and the contractor is responsible for coming up with a system to protect the murals. They are receptive to my input, but want to do it as inexpensively as possible. While there will be dust, my main concern is protecting the murals from the workers, tools and materials that must pass through the halls/stairwell on their way to other work spaces. The murals are mounted above a 1950s chair rail, and in most places extend to the ceiling. The edge of the ceiling is trimmed with pieces of 1950s base molding. We can use the ceiling trim/chair rail to support the protection system.

      My online research led to a mural conservation proposal that recommended protection in the form of ¾” plywood/particle board, with a continuous layer of 6 mil polyethylene sheeting between the board and the mural, with 2” of space between board/sheeting and the mural. This proposal also recommended using polyethylene foam on the perimeter to form a seal to limit dust and debris. The contractor wants to use homasote panels. Any thoughts? Other recommendations for materials? Thank you for your input.


    • #134829
      Heather Brown

      Hi Andree,

      My first concern would be abrasion of the murals, but it sounds like you’re already considering how to mitigate that with rigid boards.

      Homesote panels are similar to drywall (right?), so that should be fine. Your proposal to cover the boards in polyethylene sheeting with a seal around the edge sounds like a good one. I’m not sure you want anything in direct contact with the paintings if there’s a chance that it may vibrate, stick, or migrate materials. Maybe add some soft buffers toward the center in case the boards deflect?

      I have to admit that I’m not a paintings conservator, so there could be something that I’m missing. If you don’t get any other feedback, I’ll contact an expert to run it by them.


    • #134835
      Marc Williams


      A couple of questions, which may affect the answer. Where are you located? The climate may have an impact on the solution. And how long do you anticipate the project to take? A few days is much different than a few months. I’ll be happy to give you my thoughts with a bit more information.


      Conservator for over 35 years and counting!!

    • #134836
      Andree Miller


      We are located outside Philadelphia, PA, right near Valley Forge. The project will take approximately 4 months and we hope to be finished by the end of the year.


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