Conservation & Preservation
Parkwood Past & Present
Parkwood Estate National Historic Site is the family home of autobaron R.S. McLaughlin, founder of General Motors of Canada, and Canadian philanthropist transformed into a one of a kind National Historic Site and museum. Learn more about how we conserve and preserve Parkwood below.
Parkwood is extremely fortunate in that we have not had to source or collect artifacts for our collection. When the Estate became a National Historic Site, the house was full of items that belonged to the McLaughlin Family when they lived here. As the estate is now 100 years old, signs of time, gravity and wear and tear have begun to emerge. Although quite an extensive and expensive process, in order to properly preserve our artifacts we attempt to conserve the collections, architecture and heritage assets of Parkwood through the careful work of trained conservators.
Natalie, a conservator from the Sir Sandford Fleming Conservation program has been volunteering numerous hours this summer to conserve our anaglypta wallpaper located at the back staircase. As many of you know, we completed Part A of Stage II of the HVAC Retrofit this winter ($1.8m to date), adding central air and humidification to the Art Deco Bedroom Suite, the Art Gallery and part of the third floor. Using closet spaces and the fireplace flues to run the duct work, etc. to ensure the work did not compete with or destroy our original finishes, construction crews negotiating the stairway with fan belts, and piping contributed to some of the wear and tear the natural aging process of the anaglypta has seen over the last 94 years.
In the above photos you see Natalie applying a syringe full of adhesive to consolidate some flaking that has occurred on the anaglypta around a window frame. This damage, and areas of loss, has been sustained over the years, due to an exposure to moisture, accumulative damage simply due to opening and closing windows for approximately a century. Once the adhesive is dried, the cracks will be flattened out with the use of a heated spatula which will relax the painted surface of the anaglypta ( the pink colour). Natalie will fill the areas of loss with a home-made paste, a recipe that consists of paper fibres and methyl cellulose adhesive, creating the same texture and density of the surrounding wallpaper. The walls are then cleaned with a 90 : 9 : 1 solution of water, mineral spirits and orvus paste, followed by a rinse. Once dry, Natalie will colour match to the pink walls and infill the areas that have been consolidated.
It’s a lot of work! Preserving a site of the quality and importance of Parkwood has tremendous challenges, but also tremendous rewards to Canada – a gift to the future and an opportunity to learn and take part
We look at repair to roofs, windows, wiring, fire, and safety systems. We improve temperature, humidity levels and air quality, control light and UV. We intervene with artefacts and architectural finishes as little as possible, preserving them in their current situations and conditions.
When we need to intervene, we conserve, treating room finishes, painting and artwork, furniture, carpets, fabrics and lighting with minimal measures without altering the historic integrity of the artefact.