FOT Lecture Series IV: A Matter of Materials: Preservation, Conservation, and Restoration
Moderated by Dr. Nicole Blackwood, President of Friends of the Owens-Thomas House
March 28, 2021, 6:30pm
Another Shade of Blue: Paint Discoveries in Nineteenth-Century Urban Slave Quarters
Dr. Susan Buck, Independent Paint Conservator and Analyst
The most compelling and accessible paints in the Owens-Thomas House Cellar and the quarters for enslaved people in the Carriage House are the chalky blue washes that survive in many of these spaces. What are these pigmented coatings and what might they mean for the interpretation of these work areas and chambers? New comparative paint analysis using cross-section and polarized light microscopy analysis techniques has revealed that there are multiple pigmented and unpigmented lime washes on the plaster and woodwork. The blue-pigmented washes which are now obvious to visitors are the most recent coatings in areas where there are up to 17 generations of coatings, including earlier yellow and pinkish pigmented limewashes. These pigmented washes are not unique to the Owens-Thomas House. Similar nineteenth-century pigmented coatings have been found in context at other kitchen-laundry buildings and carriage houses of comparable importance in Charleston, South Carolina. This lecture will explain how these paints are analyzed and interpreted, and will offer new insights into their compositions and relative dates.