The installation of climate control into the oldest part of the museum has given us the opportunity to treat some of our oldest objects — the beautiful crystal chandeliers that hang high above our heads. They hadn’t been taken down for treatment in decades and a thick layer of dust had settled all over them, dulling their appearance in our magnificent East India Marine Hall, built in 1824.
Our move team, led by Angela Breeden with Henry Rutkowski, the electrician, first labeled all the parts then disassembled the arms and the drip cups that contain fragile crystals. They were carefully packed, even though they were only going downstairs, to prevent any possibility of breakage. The chandelier bodies were mummified in plastic wrap and packing peanuts and hung on a garment rack for the trip.
For treatment, each piece had to be taken apart, vacuumed and washed.
The pieces with the most damage were the elaborate coverings for the arm supports. They were made of carved and gilded wood attached to a thin metal container that is only as thick as a tin can (and made of the same material). The years had taken their toll and the leaves were cracked and broken in places. After treatment the gilding began to gleam again.
Then they were ready for re-installation. All the parts were repacked and brought back into East India Marine Hall where Henry and I carefully rehung everything in its place.
And the crowning touch was added: new flickering LED candles that make the chandeliers shimmer like they did in the 1820’s when they were the source of illumination for the gallery.