Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Conservators begin work on Penn State's Land-Grant Frescoes

Preliminary work began March 12 on the restoration of the lobby of Old Main and the conservation and ultimate preservation of the historic Land-Grant Frescoes on Penn State’s University Park campus. The frescoes project, funded by a $1.5 million gift from an anonymous donor, will be accompanied by the restoration of the entire Old Main lobby to reflect accurately its appearance in 1948 when the 1,300-square-foot frescoes were completed by Henry Varnum Poor. The works are the only frescoes at an American university created by an American artist, and the risk that this landmark might be damaged irreparably prompted a highly sophisticated initiative to preserve the frescoes for posterity.

Poor created the first fresco in Old Main in 1940, supported in part by a gift from the Class of 1932. Deterioration first became apparent in 2001, and many portions, such as the central image of Abraham Lincoln, have developed alarming cracks. In 2008, Albert Michaels Conservation Inc. from Harrisburg, Pa., assessed the level of damage and risk and proposed a conservation plan that was finally made financially feasible through a generous and anonymous philanthropic gift.
Jeff Johnson, an artist working with Albert Michaels, will spend the next few days on the first phase of the lobby restoration process. In small test areas, he will meticulously remove each layer of paint applied over the years to expose the original colors and historic finishes that would have greeted visitors to Old Main nearly three-quarters of a century ago.

The non-invasive work that will be taking place during regular business hours this week will be followed by multiple phases over the next two years to conserve the frescoes themselves and restore the walls, ceilings, moldings and woodwork per historic specifications. The final phase will be to make required changes to the utility infrastructure in Old Main to remove the environmental hazards that have contributed to the frescoes' degradation. A master plan developed by Ana Beha Architects will ensure that the humidity, temperature control and air quality of the lobby will preserve the frescoes in a stable environment.

Beginning in May, additional artists from Albert Michaels Conservation will construct a laboratory space around sections of the frescoes to conduct their work. Visitors will be encouraged to watch the progress through special windows and learn more about the conservation process.
To learn more about the frescoes' history, visit

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Flickr and YouTube Host The Julia L. Maietta and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Collection

This Flickr exhibit highlights Julia L. Maietta's life and career as a labor and political activist and also documents many social and political issues confronting the American workforce from the late 1930s to the late 1970s. The images selected have been drawn from several archival and personal paper collections within the Historical Collections and Labor Archives, most notably the Julia Maietta Papers and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, Joint Board of Pennsylvania collection. The source is listed for each displayed image. The digital exhibition represented here focuses on the central theme of Maietta and her lifetime devotion to aiding working people. Items on display include groups of letters, cartoons, pamphlets, workers' complaint forms, union meeting minutes and historical photographic images. Collectively, these aid our understanding of how the labor movement shaped the lives of working women and their families from the 1930s to the 1970s. Julia Maietta's remarkable story of rise from factory girl to labor representative can now be shared with those willing to view and listen.

This online exhibition was created by Amanda Masullo, Archival Assistant, Historical Collections and Labor Archives and Jim Quigel, Head of Historical Collections and Labor Archives.

For the Julia L. Maietta Oral History and Campaign Advertisements click here for the Penn State Historical Collections and Labor Archives YouTube playlist.

YouTube editor: T. Babcock.
Metadata editor: G. Johns.

Special Collections Travel Grant Recipient Visits Penn State!

Rachel Pierce of the University of Virginia, recipient of a Special Collections Huck Research Travel Grant, will describe her research about the contested nature of feminism in the 1970s, in an informal talk entitled, "Feminist Republicans?: The Pursuit of Women's Equity within the Nixon and Ford Administrations."

The event will be held at the Paterno Library Mann Conference Room at 4pm on Monday, May 7 th . Don't miss this timely opportunity to join a conversation about women's issues and politics