tv The Presidency Preserving the White House CSPAN August 29, 2022 11:54pm-1:09am EDT
history of the white house and carrying the legacy forward for future generations. everyone here this evening is an important part of that mission. we thank you for your support and we are deeply grateful for your partnership as we look forward with excitement to the next 60 years of the white house historical association and the continued success of its vital mission.
i'm happy to now introduce our final panel today, which brings together a highly impressive group of scholars and practitioners dedicated to the preservation of the white house something that's very near and dear to us here at the white house historical association, dr. matthew costello vice president of the david m rubenstein national center for white house history and senior historian at the white house historical association will moderate the conversation. our first panelist is leslie green bowman president of the thomas jefferson foundation which owns and operates monticello in addition to this work. she has served by presidential appointment on the committee for the preservation of the white house under president's joe biden donald trump barack obama
george w bush and bill clinton. stuart mclaurin is president of the white house historical association leading the association's nonprofit nonpartisan mission to support conserv. station and preservation at the white house with private funding john stanwich serves as the national park service liaison to the white house overseeing the national park services responsibilities for the care of the white house and its grounds as well as the park areas immediately surrounding the white house. finally. we are joined by lydia teterick curator of the white house. she has been part of the white house curatorial staff since 1979. tetrick has lectured and published articles on the white house collection and specializes in historic photographs of the executive mansion. please join me in welcoming our panelists to the stage for our final panel today. here put me in the middle here.
i don't like this. well, thank you sarah for that wonderful introduction. it's it's been a pretty incredible day. i heard some fascinating insights from different people and i know this will be a fitting conclusion to our symposium. and before we get into our conversation about preservation with the white house, i figured i would share a little bit about the history behind these preservation efforts at the white house and in some of the challenges that we face. in addition to being the home and office of america's head of state the white house also must serve as a ceremonial stage and as a museum all while continuing to function on a daily basis as a home for the first family. the white house is not frozen in time rather. it is a historic place where history is constantly unfolding now. this makes the task of preservation even more challenging when the historic site you seek to protect and safeguard is used for large
events, press conferences state dinners holiday parties. those can be especially treacherous and in john's case easter egg rolls concerts picnics and tree lights and tree lightings all of these things. i would imagine can do a number on the long. yeah. also marine one landings, you know. just your ordinary things that you have to deal with in a historic site. yes, exactly. visuals bring a different perspective on these issues. but before we get to our conversation, i'd like to summarize a brief history of preservation of the white house. for nearly a century the homes occupants constantly struggled to meet the expectations placed upon them by the american public and press while congress appropriated funds for furniture and furnishings starting with john adams was 14,000 dollars. it was raised to $20,000 during andrew jackson's presidency and stayed that amount until the presidency of calvin coolidge. so as you can imagine the money went quickly and wasn't evenly
distributed across the rooms. so since these funds didn't go very far this meant fixing broken items regaled in reupholstering shifting items between rooms to address different concerns and when necessary selling outdated or worn out items of public auction and using the proceeds to buy new items for the house in 1826 congress passed legislation that mandated that all furniture purchased for the white house should be as far as practicable be of american or domestic manufacturer. while this was included as part of the appropriations bill there were ways around this as we heard with for example, the china services many of which were french made and were brought to the united states and then purchased from american firms. the white house was after all an office in a home in an extremely accessible one at that. this greatly impacted the house. it's appearance and its furnishings in 1842. authored charles dickens. yes that charles dickens wrote a wrote of his experience visiting the white house.
he noticed that there were a multitude of all asserting their supremacy more than anything else as they had no particular business the white house or that anybody knew of while waiting for president john tyler dickens made note of the gentleman who were waiting with him and their affinity for chewing tobacco. they quote bestowed their favors. so abundantly upon the carpet that i take for granted the presidential housemates have high wages. no, one saw these carpets as artifacts were the preserving rather. they were seen more as household necessities and even though spittoons were abundantly placed. some people were just not polite enough to put their spit into a bucket only later in the 19th century did citizens began to see these places and objects differently. they became imbued with historical significance and relevancy much like we heard earlier today this movement and the wider cultural awakening behind historic preservation was propelled by women.
first ladies hostesses journalists photographers researchers and eventually curators caroline harrison's attempt to identify and catalog white house china as well as create a display for the public to see this china in the executive mansion transpired shortly after the centennial celebration of the constitution in the celebration of the first presidency in george, washington. this was not a coincidence and as we heard earlier with with lucy hayes this idea of commemorations and centennials are very much connected to this wider idea of what is american history who defines it who tells the story while it would take some time for this role to solidify as part of the first lady's responsibilities. there are some notable examples worth mentioning and i'll just touch on them briefly because we heard a bit of this earlier edith roosevelt overseeing a major white house renovation, but also suggesting that the portraits the first ladies be home on the ground floor corridor and that there be cabinets made to display pieces of presidential state service. we had edith wilson who created and designated the china room
along the ground floor to house more of the collection grace coolidge who worked with a committee of experts to advise in the decor of state floor rooms and assessed donations to the white house and lou hoover who oversaw the first systematic study of white house artifacts their origins and even permitted documentary photographs to be taken of the private quarters. all of these women and we heard this in the late morning panel contributed these women and others to the evolving idea of preservation at the white house and after the truman renovation of 1948-1952 was first lady jacqueline kennedy who spearheaded a restoration at the executive mansion. her hiring of the first curator of the white house lorraine waxman pierce as well as the support of congress through public law 87286 and act concerning the white house in providing for the care and preservation of its historic and artistic contents specified the need to preserve and interpret the museum character of the ground floor corridor and the public rooms on the state floor. it also codified that furniture fixtures and decorative arts of
the white house are inalienable and considered the property of the white house mrs. kennedy supported the creation of the white house historical association as a cooperating organization with the national park service, and we are proud to maintain that today six years 60 years later while mrs. kennedy's time at the white house was tragically cut short her successor lady bird johnson and her husband president lyndon johnson further institutionalized these roles and are ongoing relationship president johnson issued executive order 11145, which officially created the position of white house curator and the committee for the preservation of the white house. and we'll talk a little bit more about what that is and who's on that the coalescence of these ideas and practices and collaboration between government private advisory practitioner all takes place in the 1960s and it sets a new standard for preservation of the white house. today, we'll learn more about
these roles these organizations and how we collaborate to carry out this critical work. so i would like to begin with a big question that i'm going to pose to all the panelists you all approach preservation from different perspectives in different capacities. but what would you say is your overarching philosophy when it comes to preserving the white house? of who wants to begin? i'll jump in sure. preserving preservation at the white house. i love this picture. it's not just material culture, right and and you so eloquently stated the different roles it has. and preservation has each of those roles as well. when you look at that executive order it talks about this place that it's a place of democracy of ideas. so i think preservation at the white house is much more than our typical understanding of
museum preservation material culture architecture, right? this is also preservation of a power of place. this is a place of preservation of ideas of american ideas that actually define us as americans the only thing that defines americans is ideas. we're not a tribe. we're not a religion. we're not a conquest. this is one of the nuclei of those ideas. so i think that for us on the committee and for the way those historical association curators office and john and and all the wonderful people that we've we've been able to work together on preservation all of those dimensions come together in a preservation standpoint, but then they also hit the practical right the the press who have to use this house the white house christmas party is the all of the things that make this a breathing museum house on office. a stage set a theater that most of us in preservation wouldn't think about at our respective sites.
i i would definitely thank you very much as a really eloquent start. obviously the park service. we've been involved with the white house since 1933. and then with this house itself and the collection some ways too since 1961 and i feel you know, it's it really speaks to what the national park service is about. it's about preserving protecting and telling the story of this nation for future generations. and i feel like that's what we do every day working here at the white house and i feel like you know, all those things that we see, you know are important for people, you know, we sometimes take it for granted, but people really see each one of those things as meaning something to them something they've waited their whole life to see so it's very very important to us that we all bear together and making sure that that place is very special for people when they come to visit it also too as we've said it's it's ever dynamic environment. it's changing.
great moment. it's changing with every administration. and so we have to be there to adjust and be able to be nimble and to work with it. but at the same time understand that trust that's been given to us from presidents in first families before that. those areas are there and you know a sacred to them and it will be sacred to those future generations of our leaders and their families as well that come you know in the future. so it's a really important trust that we all have and we collectively share and work together collaboratively on i would say our approach is a little more practical because as you know, we're not a traditional museum. we're first and foremost the home of the president of the united states and then a historic house museum with an important collection of fine and decorative arts. so our objects are used people do sit on our 19th century chairs and sofas. we do have regular tours.
there are a number of events that take place in state four rooms as we've been hearing food and drinks are served in these rooms. so the question for us is what can we do to help preserve this collection and the white house for the future and for a few future first families, and we do this in a number of ways, for example, we offer training sessions to resident staff on how best to handle the collection gloves are worn to protect sensitive surfaces. from oils found naturally on hands for staff outside of the residents we've given presentation to new employees as part of an orientation session to tell them a little bit about white house history and about art collection, which now numbers about 60,000 objects. we emphasize to them that important objects can be found in all of the public spaces that
they may see on a day-to-day basis. so we ask them, you know, unless you're a guest at an event to please not sit on the furniture. please don't walk through the state floor rooms with your coffee cups. and essentially we're inviting them to help us preserve the collection. we monitored tour setups. any object that may be at risk and hopefully we'll be identified and we can suggest modifications in order to protect it in additionally our curatorial staff monitors the condition of all of our objects. we arrange for conservators to periodically examine the collection we work with them to establish a priority list for objects that are in need of treatment and we arrange for that conservation there have actually been times when the fragility of a piece has forced us to retire it from service if this happens, it doesn't mean that it's going to be sent off
to storage forever, but we now have an opportunity to place it on display at the white house visitors or at the smithsonian. well, thank you matt for the for the question for leading this and as i began this morning to thank you and colleen for putting this entire day together. it's really been a marvelous day and to have leslie lydia and john on this panel. i'm starting my ninth year here at this association, and i don't think we've had these four perspectives or voices from the committee for the preservation of the white house a curator the park service and our voice in the panel, and it's really an interesting and fundamental. look at how the place. the continuity of care for the place presidents come and go and there have been 46 presidencies and 45 men and they are as different as they can be all of them. but they have one thing in common and that one thing they all have in common. is that little white house about 200 yards where we're sitting
right now. and so we exist the white house historical association as the living legacy of mrs. kennedy that matt outlined what she did miraculously remember she's 31 years old when her husband becomes president. she's first lady for less than three years jury to the of her husband. she could have thought she had four years or eight years to put something in place according to her vision, but she front loaded that thank goodness and now 11 presidents and first ladies since the kennedys have been able to benefit from and take advantage of things like a curator to care for the art and the objects a committee for the preservation of the white house to be the wise sound voices of advice and counsel in the first lady is going to do something and in our case to be the non-tax payer funder to make this possible if you look at homes of heads of state around the world even buckingham palace and certainly number 10 if you sorry any british friends that
are watching, but if you go into number 10, and the draperies are frayed and the furniture is frayed and it's nothing it's they because you can't go to parliament and say give us this money would just be a big screaming headline and the newspaper says it some what has been recently, but we mrs. kennedy at that young age. short period of time put in place these processes and procedures including us so that over this time we're able to fund and make possible the things that lydia and her team identify that have to be done and that the committee for the preservation of the white house advises the first lady that should be done or how they should be undertaken and that's an amazing privilege that this country has this organization has to do that on behalf of the american people. and so some people would think of us as like the check writers to make that possible, but we're more deeply invested in the care of the house and all three of these aspects and in being their biggest fans and cheerleaders of what they do and helping make
possible what they do. it's really a brilliant system in our country is very very fortunate to have this structure in place. well, and that's actually it's a great transition because we're talking about collaboration and how these different entities and organizations have worked together. while i'm distinct roles related to the white house, but we work collaboratively on preservation and acquisition efforts. so in terms of process i was wondering if you could enlighten us as a panel. how does this how does this work? how does it how do these relationships work? i'm sure sometimes maybe they don't work as well and sometimes they work better, but how does acquisitions work just kind of pull back the curtain and tell us a little bit more about the relationships. i guess i'll take that one. obviously a lot of us got here to to up on the stage to different ways. i actually studied lawn diplomacy. i went to the fletcher school of law and diplomacy at tufts
university and i was anticipating going and working for the state department, you know going overseas and working my studying american diplomatic history and my concentration was on early us russian relations. and it brought me to adams national historical park, which was john quincy adams' home and the fan the family adam's family's home as well. and so i went there for research and you know, i they interested me in a job with the national park service. i've been working for the park service ever since but i looked back to the my training and diplomacy and every day that i work here at the white house. i can tell you i would never have used it as much overseas every single day no matter what. you you need to be a diplomat. you need to remind remind yourself of your mission of what you're trying to accomplish of what that goal is, but that you have to cooperate and appreciate everyone else's mission at the same time.
we have 13 other federal agencies working on the complex, and we also have obviously a partners great partners like the white house historical association who help us in this unsurmountable amount of you know about tasks that we have in order to preserve protect and tell the story we couldn't do it without collaboration cooperation. and so that needs to be done and sometimes those partners have totally different missions and we have and i'm sure all of you know that we've been working over the last few years and replacing the white house fence. and so that project is a very huge project that we've working with the us secret service on and so sometimes obviously their mission is to protect the first they protect the complex, but we collectively had to make them aware to that. that fence was a very historic object and that it needed to be preserved and needed to have its own story told and so lydia and
her team from the white house curators office and park service together. we worked with secret service to let them know how important this was. we cataloged it. we also made sure that it was going to be protected in taking care of as much as the historic fabric that we had and so if we've got the slide there we could maybe you say you can see the historic old fence here that was in front of the white house and we have we are in the process of replacing that with that's about a six foot two inch fence with a 12-foot fence and you can see the project here on the south side. going on. and here on the pennsylvania avenue side. where is you can see the 12 foot fence in place, but along the way you can imagine that that fabric that we touched we had to make sure that secret service was going to you know, be respectful of the process that
we had to go through in order to to put that fence in and and all the work that needed to go on in order to do that. there was one real symbol to me of the success that we had in this objective this collaborative objective and so on the south east side of the white house complex. it's a long e street and it's a ginkgo tree that we believe has been there probably before george washington came here to survey the site and we told the secret service of all things. we really needed to make sure that i can go tree preserve cascake. think about all the story it could tell about you know, where the white house is and what what this special place is and they you know, obviously we're at first a little hesitant because it would cost. more money, there's a lot more time that needed to go in. but ultimately we prevailed and so i invite you all when you have time to go down in president's park to along east street there and look at that very large ginkgo tree that sits
there and just say that we collaboratively have worked together and really important thing that we all can still enjoy that hopefully lots of future generations can enjoy as well. lady did you want to or maybe leslie or stewart speak about how does that process work with? acquisition or how do these projects are processed and moved? oh again, we need to work collaboratively to add an object to the collection, but for something to become part of the permanent white house collection, there's a process that we have to follow. we have a what's called the collections policy that was approved by the committee for the preservation of the white house. it was first passed in 1992 and has been revised twice since then it outlines our objectives the criteria. we need to follow to acquire something for the white house and describes the types of objects that we should be looking for for the collection
for example, like portraits of presidents and first ladies and famous americans landscapes and cityscapes that show different parts of our country works by leading american artisans objects that were once in the white house. that's we desperately want to acquire for the collection are things that have a strong white house provenance. with the exception of commission presidential and first lady portraits, we do not however except works by living artists. in fact, the artist has to be deceased and the work at least 25 years old. often objects are brought to our attention. they're offered as gifts or donations when this happens. we will compile images in all known information about that object including condition provenance exhibition history and put this together as a packet and present the
information to the committee of which leslie has been a long time member of and hope that we'll get their approval and there are times when we do not. as i said the policy has been amended a few times since it was. last in 1992 and working with future committees changes to the policy are possible to help us adapt to the future. i should also mention that priorities on what we acquire are sometimes determine by the administrations and by first families during the obama administration, for example, there was a desire to collect more modern works for the collection and with the assistance of the committee. we acquired some wonderful paintings by artists such as joseph albers robert rochenberg alma thomas roy lichtenstein also during that administration the family dining room on the
state floor was refurbished to specifically showcased modern design. i think matt you have a photograph of that, don't you? yeah. well, we're gonna segue into leslie unless you want to also weigh in. acquisition and i could be quick. i could be really quick. it really starts. usually with the curator's who are the professionals who are not only caring for the collection, but i think what i what i want to say is you understate your incredible role you and alyssa and the rest of the team in finding those things and trying to stay under the radar while you try to find them because depending on how much is known about the prevalence is going to change the price right? so there's there's an incredible role that the characters and and that office plays and then for the committee is really i think meant to do two things right it's meant to protect the first family from having to make tough decisions that or decisions that would like like currying favor,
right? so there's a political role that the committee needs to play to protect the first family from both the slings and the arrows as well as you know political gain, and then there's just if we have expertise right? so i love the fact that we've you know had some folks on the committee like wendy cooper and richard neil andrew have such deep deep experience in neoclassical material culture. and so then we we might advise on price we might advise on condition we might advise on. oh, i think there's one of those at the met you know, and generally lydia and our team already know that they've already gone up and looked at it, but it's a wonderful i think collaborative. it's been a great joy. yeah, i would say simply put in summary that it does begin principally with the curators and what is needed and wanted whether it's something they've identified or first family first lady as identified then goes to the committee for the preservation of the white house for their advice. council and cover if need be then to the association perhaps to do research from time to time and to fund this project or this acquisition and then because the
white house itself does not have gift for seat authority. we then deliver it to the park service which receives it and then stores it on behalf of the the government until such time as it's used and by the curators on the state floor, and so that's the really quick summary of how we all work together. there's other one other piece to this pie. it's not always when something is spotted at an auction or an opportunity to acquire something but we we have two ways of really working with the curators office. there are those episodic opportunities, but we have annual experiences as well where they look to see something that may really need to be taken care of in terms of one of the most interesting examples was in the previous presidency when the first lady and her designer and the curators just realized that so many of the historic doors in the white house had scratches from the pets of the presidents for years and years and years and years and years. well, this was a major project
and it wasn't a sexy project but to take down 30 some doors for four days at a time and take them away and refinish them and bring them back. it was disruptive to the flow for the family and to everything else in the white house, but that was something that had to be done that someone going through the white house wouldn't say oh these beautiful doors, but it was necessary and to have someone caring about those things on a day-to-day basis and having a first lady that gets that and supports that and comes to us is a really really great thing. so, so my next question is for stewart the white house historical association's mission is to educate the public about the history of the house. it also plays an important role in supporting preservation acquisition efforts. can you tell us a little bit more about our role and some of the recent projects you mentioned the doors but move we can talk through some of the other ones. well the slide that you see now is a really summary of some of our acquisitions. this is just four presidencies of the 12 and some of the items
that we've acquired during those presidencies roughly 111 million dollars of investment in that period of time the most expensive acquisition. i believe was the jacob lawrence during mrs. laura bush's time his first lady which is in the green room next to the door going into the east room. that was two two and a half million dollars and the alma thomas that you mentioned is more in line with the type of acquisition, which was about 300,000 and so we're very fortunate to have the resources that have been accumulated really through private support individual support. we have no government funding whatsoever. it's all private support and it comes from our retail products that comes from our private philanthropy and all of this builds together to make these resources available when they're needed and this is a wonderful example through this list here of just the types of things that have been acquired in place in the collection some of the most
recent projects if you want to click through these lydia mentioned to the old family dining room about the state floor and you can see there the rauschenberg on the left and the alma thomas on the right significant about the alma thomas is the first african american female office to be in the african american female artist to be in the white house collection. this is her work a title resurrection and we then take that and through our education programs even our retail products amplify the message in the story and the history of that product. so it's not just a painting. on awol in a room in a house that a limited number of people will see but we use that to teach and tell stories about acquisition about this artist about why mrs. obama selected this and it's put in this wonderful room and the contrast to me is fascinating which it's a little stark and even some of our board members have considering support for this project where this is this doesn't look like the white
house, you know, it's not this federal appearance and given the collection policy that lydia mentioned where the artist has to be deceased to the work has to be 25 years old or older the farther we get into the 21st century the great artists of the mid and late 20th century in america are becoming eligible to have their works in the collection. and here they are and so they have the right and the opportunity to be showcased as well. and so you also have the early 20th century tea set over there from the world's fair and the albers inspired rug there on the floor and it creates a whole different dimension. and another first lady may came a lot come along and change that and that's their prerogative. but this is an example of a specific type of unique project that we were privileged to work on with a first lady in her team and this the red room you recognize then i just ask lydia. i said we finished this part of that project. did we but the most extreme part of this project that was noticeable to those of you who
happen to be in there often is you're looking there at the western wall going in to the state dining room and the sunlight coming through those southern windows had faded that western wall almost to a pinkish color. it was really bad. and so this is fabric. it's not wallpaper or paint and so it was reupholstered and it's the furniture was reupholstered with us as well. and that was completed during the trump presidency or as a project on the trump presidency. and then this was a wonderful project the diplomatic reception room and the item were talking about here is the rug that's on the floor. and as you know, this is the room that the president goes through to get out to the helicopter and so it can run a little path but from the downstairs hallway out to the south lawn and so it it wears and this is it's a lot of wear and so mrs. trump replaced that rug with this rug which the
significant element of it. that is really beautiful and i don't -- isn't here is she she isn't shown up today fam worked with mrs. trump on this the previous rug had had the state seals around the perimeter and this is replaces those with the state flowers. and so it's really a beautiful edition. of course. this is an american made rug in michigan and is really beautiful the diplomatic reception room. spectacular photograph extraordinary image and amazing work is melissa still here. she this all the bell and jay queen is right over there. there's this is a sweet represents. the blue furniture is the suite of village a furniture, which told you i was going to mention james monroe james monroe who had been our minister to france returns to the white house as the first president after the fire in 1817 and brings with him this extraordinary 53 piece suite of furniture from the french cabinet maker and it is there in the white house.
it was originally a red color. not a blue color over time. it becomes worn and at a fashion and by the time of the buchanan presidency, i think it's been whittled down to just one piece of the 53 and which is tragic that was a time before the kennedy presidency when there was no collection an item could come into the white house for one president. the next president could come along and it could go away. i think that required that to stay in the white house collection that changed with the kennedys and the johnsons but at this point this beautiful 53-piece suite of furniture comes in by buchanan, it's all gone gone except for one piece. is kennedy undertook initiative to try to reclaim as many pieces as she could? we work with her on that and other first ladies since to this day, i believe there are 10 original pieces now in the white house collection, is that right? ten eleven eleven pieces in the collection including that peer
table and the fire screen you see there is the most recent if you had seen that when it was acquired you wouldn't have looked at it twice. it looked like a piece of junk that had been in the trash somewhere. it's been extraordinary lee restored and this entire suite thanks to melissa's leadership and lydia and that entire team of that they put together to restore this furniture back to its original state is is exquisite and spectacular and as an investment of about 700,000 on our part to do the 10 the 11 piece of original piece of the tin and the pier table plus some duplicate pieces that have been created over time to complement this but privilege of ours to do you you would have looked at the furniture before and you would have thought this this is beautiful. this is handsome furniture, but if you look at a refurbished piece next to a piece that had not been refurbished it's like night and day so an amazing
amazing accomplishment by the curatorial team with the affirmation of the committee and the support of the american people to make this possible. it's just really i think probably the most stunning example and a great another great thing about the story is it transcended presidencies? it started under mrs obama and then it continued there was no interruption continued under mrs. trump and now today you can see it in the blue room of the white house really really amazing. one and the blue room is a good transition for leslie, you know, we heard in the introduction you've served for multiple presidencies on the committee for the preservation of the white house. can you tell us about a specific preservation project that really resonated with you and why? it was this room. it was 1993. that's where i'm actually at mrs. clinton's request was submitted to the committee in the curators for for refreshing
right for restoration things were afraid. i'm not sure which this is 1991. no. no, so just to give people an idea of how much even the blue room has changed. exactly. so this is post truman. this is after mrs. kennedy restored the room and even that didn't last very long because then mrs. nixon came along and then i think was the last major refurbishing the space until and now i just like this photo sort of like a we're looking ahead to the future and here's governor covener clinton meeting with president reagan and i think it was one of the governor's conferences so sort of a foreshadowing to history. and now this is where enter scene leslie well, and why don't we go back to the wonderful image that stewart was talking about, you know, the blue room is just really i think the centerpiece room of the white house architect actually as well
as in the popular mind right if you go there for you know, where's where's the christmas tree in the white house? it's in that room, right? so it is really the heart and soul of the the home the office the public the diplomacy all of it and i lucky for me. i just come on the committee and the committee and the curators. we're really looking at how to to take on this room and rather than just restore what had been there there was sense of really making it more historical, right? so the everything that was done there had a historical basis. and of course the crown jewel of all that is the parentwan balonche furniture, which i think actually monroe did not bring back from france, but i if i'm corrected, i think he ordered it and it wasn't supposed to be gilded. he actually requested, you know the plane would and why because he knew he shouldn't look like a monarch, right?
he shouldn't look palatial. it shouldn't look i mean, there's so much politics even from the very beginning of presidents trying to furnish this house. so when it arrived and it was gilded melissa's nodding so i'm okay. i can't see lydia. it was a real shock and a real concern that this furniture 50 53 pieces of it in full french guilt. right? and of course van buren ultimately pays for that when there's the backlash after jackson's expenses for the white house and then congress passes the law that everything has to be made in america, but this is the furniture that really sets that in motion because it's just too opulent and too guilt it and it's wonderful clean knowledge over there queen biologic. so so of course this furniture that is really the centerpiece of the historical period that we're going to we're gonna work with right and richard nylander found in the cooper hewitt these wonderfully period documented wallpapers that we could use and
reproduce and then scala andre did the upholstery. i was slightly deeper blue closer to what an early upholstery had been on those chairs and with literally the we had a we had the image of monroe standing next to one of these only new we knew the declaration that the damask should have and i think the piece that was most interesting to me and that's when i will ask you to go back to stewart's side she can go back. there you go. everything was pretty much falling into place with the wallpapers and the upholstery and these amazing chairs and the sofa, but the rug what do you do for the rug and every committee for the presidential white house always of course includes on the president the first family's decorator designer. i think it was khaki hawker smith, and that's i think mrs.
clinton's and khaki was asked quite appropriately. you know, what do we do about the rug and there was the presumption that we didn't have any period rug so we'd have to design something that would look like it would and she was designing something lovely with state seals and all that and think wendy cooper and i wendy a winner tour at that point. i was still at los angeles county museum of art. i had not yet gone to winter tour kind of scratched our heads and said, well aren't there aren't there some historical? presidents for this can't we find something. that is not a pastiche, which is not meant to be negative, but it would be made up and then we discovered that. there were still the historical paint point papers in in england of the period rugs that had been made in that period and many of them sent to america through philadelphia through through a vendor. so we were able to find a point paper. that wasn't oval rug and have
that made by but we hadn't made by an american firm star crying. so we had we had we had to honor but i but i do think the rug is a huge huge historical asset in pulling it together as a as a as what really would be i think pretty accurate to the period. lydia i was wondering now that we've talked a little bit about these different preservation efforts. what all what all goes into producing a room like the blue room. where are these things? kept i mean you mentioned 60,000 items. so i was curious if you could tell us a little bit more about that. well, we're fortunate to have an storage facility and a much larger off-site facility that's maintained by our friends at the national park service, but one project we wanted to tell you about today involves are the
curatorial on-site. broom it it's been our long time storage room and hadn't been renovated since the 1980s. so as you can imagine as time went by we outgrew our space. this is one of the slides showing you how it looked prior to the renov. but the opportunity presented itself in 2019 to make some changes we were directed by the chief usher. to make the space as aesthetically and functionally pleasing as we could so anyone would feel comfortable taking a first family member in there or a researcher in the space to look at objects. so what started out as a refresh, you know, perhaps new cabinets and shelving maybe a little paint developed into a complete renovation from floor to ceiling we were very
fortunate to have our partnership with the white house historical association because without their support it would not have been possible all the work that needed to be done in the space again would not have been possible without the help of the white house historical association to begin with an architectural firm was hired to sign the new space help us make better use of the space that was available to us and with other vendors we were able to plan for new cabinets compact shelving open shelving paint racks painting racks a new lighting system flooring and a new hvac system into improve environmental monitoring wireless data logging system would be added. so is daunting as this project was it was one that we definitely wanted to undertake everybody in the curators office had a role, but the one person that i really wanted to bring
attention to is our associate curator of collections and registrar donna hayashi smith. she really spearheaded this project. our aam reaccreditation is scheduled to a core to occur actually next year. and so we knew this would be a real feather in our cap. so for over a three-week period approximately 1400 objects were removed from the room packed in transit frames custom boxes and crates and transported to our off-site facility for temporary long-term storage. this included 256 framed works paintings and prints 287 pieces of glassware. numerous looking glasses sculpture pieces lighting fixtures some furniture archival boxes with documentation of photographs in even our collection of 18th century italian crash figures. we also use this opportunity to
assess which object should be stored in the room each object before it was packed was examined photographed and a determination was made as to whether it should remain on site or go off to the off-site facility. so there's one section of the space that i really wanted you to see the before picture if you wouldn't mind going back a couple. that one it's a good choice just a little cluttered, but this is one section of this space my before picture and if you go to the next picture, you'll see what it looks like now this whole section we added compact shelving units a wonderful space saving device that helped increase our storage capacity. next slide we also found that some of our visual storage cabinets could be saved including the ones that have our 18th century crash figures on it
next slide. but probably one of the most dramatic changes occurred in our packing room. unfortunately, i don't have a before picture to show you of this but there was an old air handler rather large noisy thing that used to be in this route and by replacing it and reducing the footprint we were able to add additional painting racks on the far side of this section. so here you see the old packing room today. the new air handler is similar in size to a refrigerator and is actually located behind the screen in the center of the image that has the painting on it. so now in addition to having a packing and receiving object space we can display works for researchers the lighting in this room is adjustable so we can mimic daylight if we need to and we have a nice space for photographers and conservators to work on projects.
much like a home kitchen renovation project. there were things that slowed us down including covid and a presidential transition. so while the room was completed by the end of 2020 most of the new cabinets and objects were not installed until early last year. so i'm very pleased for you to see these images of the finished room. and again, thank the association for their generosity. about so one of the the last things and here's another image one of the last things i wanted us to talk about in part because it is a another good example of a collaborative project. that involved all of us as partners and as organizations, but you know also it is on our it's on our invitation. you probably noticed the lincoln bedroom and that was after a major project was undertaken during the george w bush presidency, and i wanted to start just by kind of showing
you a few slides of what the lincoln bedroom looked like to answer your first question. no abraham lincoln did not sleep there. it was his office his cabinet room and post harry truman renovation president truman ordered that all of these different lincoln era. items and associated lincoln items be moved into this particular space. and so this photograph is from the eisenhower administration. and you know periodically there were some different changes to it, but for the most part it remained a bedroom and you know, even though herbert hoover called it the lincoln study fdr called it the lincoln study and then the lincoln bedroom after harry truman. but there was this interest about what to do with this room to sort of restore some of the historical elements that you know, you're calling it the lincoln bedroom, so why not go back to the true lincoln era when lincoln actually used the
space and so i wanted to ask our panelists to sort of talk us through this project what all went into it and and how it came about and how it was how it was executed. so i'll leave the floor open to whoever would like to start these two. well during lincoln's time that room was not the bedroom. it was his office the lincoln area furnishings were not placed in there in the lincoln bedroom created until 1945 under president truman. so up until the early 2000s the room as a matt mentioned. i hadn't really changed much since the truman renovation. in fact the carpeting that you were seeing in some of those early photos. was actually installed in that room in 1952. so as you can imagine by the early 2000s, there was dry rot, and it was time to replace it. so it's really first lady laura
bush that wanted decided to take this project on and it would have been very easy for her to brought a decorator in and create a nice victorian looking setting for the lincoln furniture, but she decided that she it the room should be restored along historical. preserve the past as much as possible. so in january 2002 she approached the committee for the preservation of the white house and asked if they would lend their expertise and participate in this endeavor. it's not an official room. so actually it was outside their purview, but the room had achieved such special status over the years that it was important that they'd be involved and mrs. bush knew that there'd be a lot of interest in anything done to this room. so we were fortunate that the committee agreed to take this on and a special subcommittee of experts was appointed to work on
the project and leslie was a member of that subcommittee. well, it was i think it's an example of the challenges of preservation, right because you have furniture that wasn't in the room originally for the period. we're trying to interpret that actually was in a room down the hall the prince of wales bedroom and you have that furniture, which is among the most opulent of the white house's surviving intact furnishings in slight conflict perhaps with this photo which is really what the room was at the period we were trying to take it back. so we have lincoln how he used it and then the furniture that his wife bought that was down the hall in a different bedroom that try to get that all in your head and and notice the difference between that carpet and the carpet that you just saw and this carpet is is relatively authentic to that furniture, right? so we were really wrestling with
seemingly slightly conflicting aesthetics as maybe the best way of putting it and here we have the photo with what we determined was green wallpaper with that that rug that you saw with the cabinet the print of the cabinet hearing the emancipation of proclamation red. what an incredibly storing moment. so, you know, lonnie bunch was on that committee, i think wendy cooper richard nylander. film and bill element. yeah. yeah, so we kind of went through this. how do we put how do we put those together and the bed is clearly maybe we move ahead one. the bed is the outstanding souls, you know, just center stage object right and this is how it had looked when mrs. lincoln had it in the prince of wales bedroom. it had this crown this canopy. it had the purple upholstery and the lace the the draperies were on sink there were violences that so this is all pretty
opulent. and then how do you square that with this really rather incredible moment of gravitas and sobriety and and a pivotal moment in our history when lincoln is using this as his as his cabinet and his office and you'll see that what we begin to do is we we found a wallpaper that actually was as close as we could find what we thought was in that photograph. we determined that green would be too dark on the walls with that furniture. we worked on a rug that would channel and kind of be geometric like the one that had been in lincoln's office and we'd we actually found i think and and lydia jump in and help me here, but i think we found the order for the wilton carpet that had been in that in that space and they described the colors g&o meant green and oak that golden color and it had some part i think did we put i think we put a little purple in or did it
have it? we knew we had to get that purple. there's somewhere did was it was her purple in the original? i can't remember. i can't remember i maybe we didn't know for sure, but we got purple in there. and then with the wallpaper, we took the design, but we we obviously made it more neutral so that the rug and the furniture could really could really aesthetically have the presidents they needed if you go to that side with the wind whichever way you want to go. so there's the canopy that we had reproduced and gilded because they i think it survived in the collections into the 20th century, but it finally been 1920s and then disappeared and then disappeared so somebody some some little girl in a fairy princess bedroom has the original canopy right? like could be could be your great aunt millie. and and then if we go to the next one.
you can see the mirror the over mental mirror if you go to that next one, i'm not being very easy to follow here. this was already in the collections. correct this over a mental mirror and it had the same shield and it clearly had a dialogue with the valences for the windows and and the canopy and the canopy and the valences were recurved from photographs and documents. so so they they really are accurate to what was in the room. i think the belcher center table was in the collections if i if i'm not mistaken and it was part of that sweet that mrs. lincoln had had bought but the but what was lacking was perhaps the same level of detailing carving with the sofa the original sofa that it well sofa that was in the room by the period that we're was not original to the room. it was a little simple still in the rococo revival style and fortunately winter tour had the the manate collection of filter furniture and we had more belcher than we could ever display winter tour. so that time i was at winter
tour and wendy and i put our heads together and with the mayonnaise approval donated from winter that pair of sofas to go with to go with it and then the marble fireplace surround was was re-carved of white carrara marble because of the photographs you had that we knew what it looked like, but that that had not survived either. yeah the image on the left is actually detail from a stereograph that we blew up to help the carver determine what the mantle should look like and then the image on the right is how it how it appears now, but the desk was really important talk about the desk and finding in the soldiers home and well there it is the story but that desk is that it was one that lincoln used at soldier's home, and it came into the collection. in the 1930s. so so it's been part of our collection since then i think
case attached to the back of one time. i think you're right. i think you're right. yeah. but i think that's a great photo. i'm so sorry matt. i think that's a great photo to actually see how we we integrated the answer emancipation proclamation and that desk and the cabinet ethos of that room with the belcher recover revival style that mrs. lincoln had for the furniture, yeah, i was just gonna say if you visit president lincoln's cottage they do have a reproduction of the desk. i'm remembering thank and part of the interpretation is, you know, lincoln spent a quarter of his presidency the summers usually at the soldiers home. and so this is where he contemplated ideas about freedom and emancipation and that perhaps he even drafted the preliminary and so i think first lady it was lou hoover who wanted that desk for the white house. so she she hadn't brought to the white house and i think it's a very fitting a fitting way to
end this panel. and before we do that i'd like to turn to the audience to see if anybody has any questions for our panelists. i think mine is a park service question. i'm wondering about when the barricades went up on pennsylvania avenue in front of the white house. i think it was during the clinton administration. yeah, so yeah, it would have been after the oklahoma city bombing. that's when pennsylvania avenue closed to the public after that. is it? it's a really unusual circumstance. so just i talked about obviously partnering between different agencies and the multi-jurisdictions that are here. so the avenue actually is dc property. it's it's a dc city street still jurisdictionally the national park service does have
maintenance jurisdiction there though. so we take care of the pennsylvania avenue. and we also have the legal and might maintenance jurisdiction for the white house sidewalk and for lafayette park on the other side. so obviously for security reasons today, i don't anticipate in the very near future that ever, you know, happening anytime soon. obviously, you know, the white house is all about continuity and change and that, you know things i've been flow obviously at one time the white house was burned and those things have since changed hopefully maybe in the future security will be such that we might not have these, you know situations or the security might be a rate in a different way to allow for you know, the egress to happen differently. so we're always working with secret service and other partners to look at those different opportunities as they
avail themselves, obviously the same time, you know threats around the world, you know, obviously impact that as well. so but a really good question obviously likewise on the south side east street that actually happened after 9/11 so that that was closed to the public at that time. so thank you. i have a question about looking forward future. repair and renovation priorities both from an interior perspective with respect to the rooms that are within the jurisdiction of the white house historical association and allied committees, and then john in your case from the 18 acres outside. what do you foresee the next compelling priorities that a future president or first lady might want to work on maybe within the next five years. i'll jump in first because one of my dreams is actually to find
a appropriate and just just i will just use the word appropriate entrance for guests and for visitors to the white house complex. the really the way that people enter this presently is substandard, you know, we've obviously done a lot of work here to restore the white house and to bring the historic character to it, but the approach to it is so beneath what we should be doing at this point in time, but like we've said it's getting that advocacy of people to be able to bring attention to that situation and to work collaboratively to affect a way into the complex that i think we all could be proud of and would say to people you know on their experience in that they're learning something about what this place is and it's significance rather than you know going really through, you know, makeshift tense and you know the sort of approach that we have more over presently. it's being done in sherman park, which is a historic area and its
own right? know and so it detracts from people's ability to go and visit that park area and learn about that story as well. so it's just definitely something in my mind's eye that we all, you know would want to make you all aware of that. that's definitely something we would want to try to advocate for and work to a vision that would create that better situation for us all. yeah, i'm hoping in addition to that. we can take a more holistic view of the entire tour experience the visitor experience from the visitor center all the way through and you know, maybe come up with ways of modernizing. some of the things that we offer to the public and how they see things. wow, amen to both of you on that. that's this is our message right here accessibility including how close you can get marsha to the to the white house itself when the not only the fence from oklahoma city bombing, but in the most recent activities when
the large fence was put up here on the north side of the park and we were inside of a cage and we're fearful that is this the new normal. is this the way it's going to be and a lot of voices to know take that down. push it back. let's get people accessibility than to come into the house and have that experience of knowing what you're about to see and the tourists are self-guided. so unless you know what you're looking at. you don't know what you're looking at, and i've stood in that east reception area so many times as people have been waiting in line and they've come from all over the country and they come into the that east wing door and there's a secret service agent there and they 90% of them will say is this the white house are we in? is this it? yes, you're in come on in and so there's there's a real need to we've all talked about this met on this had plans for this. but amen. this is something that really needs to be done for the visitor experience. so we're all for that too. i vote for their ideas.
i just want to say thank you to the white house historical association too for working on an app that gives people, you know access to that even though we're experiencing, you know, obviously unfortunate circumstances at present, but at least that app gives people that access to be able to understand what there would be seeing or what what they could see or to make the events that are going on for those people be aware of those as well. so, thank you. i'd love to see. a more inclusive story at the white house so i think there are there and and that this isn't about mrs. about staffing. this is about resources and this is about obviously future first families in the stories that they wish to shine a light on and i think they story at the white house is beat has been on a track of being more inclusive and more honest and and you know, obviously i'm on a cello we've been tackling this too and i think that there's there's more that could be done. i think could be really exciting and i think it would matter to america.
and i think that you'll you'll see that i can tell you that there's conversations underway to highlight those things. we talked about this morning. the wayside's in the park. we talked about the nine presidents and i think we are actively engaged in that work, but i think we now have the currently a scenario where there's interest in. making that known through the experience as well. so we're for that idea, too. any other yeah, i just wanted to follow up on the lines that wait to get into the public white house tours. we've now got the new bicycle lane that the mayor put in going all the way down 15th street. you've got the electric scooters who don't write in that lane and write on the sidewalk and you've got the people waiting to get into the white house tour and they're really a soft target. there's so much stuff now going on in that block in front of the sherman monument that really i think from a security point of view a safety point of view
needs to be addressed for the citizens who've waited so long to get into the white house and then i have to complement you on the white house garden tour. it was lovely seeing the multicolored flowers in the rose garden lovely. well, you know obviously with the the issue that you raised in sherman park, it's as i said, it's it's a not an ideal situation there at all. the secret service has worked to try to bring as many tour guests into sherman park for that reason so that they don't really provide soft target for that. but there's obviously only so much room and you know as tour sizes expand it becomes more challenging to do that, but it's definitely something we're always aware of in our mindful of and hopefully we can work towards a solution that would for stall any of those circumstances in the future. and i love the garden tour too. i can't tell you, you know, i obviously i worked in the
national park service before but when i first came here, i couldn't believe that you could literally just get a ticket and go inside on you know, if weekend in the fall and weekend in the spring to look at the white house grounds and looked like you live there and walk around and listen to bands and i've literally had people who i feel like i'm trying to sell i used car to come back and hug me because they thought like this was just amazing. this was incredible. thank you for telling me. so please, you know, enjoy that in the future. we really love that. we brought them back online in the spring and hopefully that will continue in the fall. thank you. any other questions? please join me in a round of applause for our panels. well, this brings us to the close of our entire day, and i
want to thank all of our panelists and everyone who participated all day long. it's been really an extraordinary occasion. our shop is open. i believe if anybody would like to take advantage of our shop. it's there for you and i hope that you'll follow the the missions of that we all undertake and all of our sites and locations and through our various social media channels and our programming, you know, one of the things i love about an occasion like this that brings together the various sites and perspectives is we're not competitors with one another we are supporters and an inspiration to each other and even when there's a a particular donor that we all know and love who might give us a generous gift from time to time, you know, every time that entity gives something to one of us, i thank him for giving it to you or to you or to some other group because it puts wind in the sales of all of us and history is such a vital and critical
important thing for us all to know more about and to teach and to tell and as i said earlier today of the 45 men who've been president of the united states they had one thing in common and it is this white house and it's history in so much of american history can be taught and learned through the prism of white house history even science and technology with thomas edison and alexander graham bell and all that has happened in this amazing building that we call the white house and thank you for your interest. thank you for your support and your generosity to all of us and to those who put this on again. thank you very much. and i was there any other announcement i was supposed to make that oh, the elaine's book signing. that's right. so we have this wonderful book designing camelot, which is one of our more recent publications publishing books was the first order of business given to us by business kennedy in 1961.
she had been through the white house as a teenager with her mom. there was no guidebook. have to publish a guidebook and so now we published four to six books a year. we have our quarterly magazine. and elaine is one of the authors on this of this beautiful beautiful book and she's going to be doing a book signing here at the end of the program. is that it cover anything else? exit we will have a party gift. well, it's the new. yep. yeah, which is about the white house gardens in the white house grounds. it's really an extraordinary issue. so thank you all for coming. have a safe travel home.