Recreating the Past

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Lizzy Siemers Uses Technology to Restore Historic Glensheen Wallpaper

 

Lizzy Siemers  
Lizzy Siemers, an undergraduate student studying digital art and photography, worked on restoring the wallpaper in one room of the historic Glensheen Mansion.  
The wallpaper before and after restoration.  
Helen's room  
One of the most celebrated interior designers in Minnesota, William A. French, designed the room.  

Lizzy Siemers, a undergraduate student, spent summer 2014 working on an artistic reproduction of a unique wallpaper.

Siemers first saw the wallpaper when she toured Glensheen: the Historic Congdon Estate with other students in a digital filmmaking class. They were visiting Glensheen, which is owned by UMD, to plan photo shoots for short films. Siemers and Glensheen Director Dan Hartman discussed the damaged wallpaper and Siemers offered to lend her digital skills to assist in the restoration.

The wallpaper, located in Helen’s room on the second floor, has a distinctive repetitive design, but it is water damaged, torn, and needs replacement badly. In addition the wallpaper was covered by another wallpaper for nearly twenty years, which left marks from its adhesive. Siemers realized it could be possible to reproduce the wallpaper's images digitally, and the project began! 

The Process 
Siemers, who is studying digital art and photography, worked on the wallpaper restoration with Assistant Professor Joellyn Rock, as part of an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Project (UROP).

Siemers took multiple digital photographs of the wallpaper and found the precise pattern to replicate. Siemers explained, “The hardest part about re-creating the wallpaper was compiling and merging all the photos. A camera will always warp a single photo.” Siemers process included using the computer software Photoshop to stack the photos to get a straight and even replica of the pattern. The design of the wallpaper is moderately simple, but the effort to create one section of the pattern, by removing the rips, tears, color flaws, and warping, was an extensive process.

Because of Siemers’ work, Scottie Gardonio, Glensheen’s graphic designer, is now working on the last touches of the files before they are sent to a wallpaper production company. Glensheen’s hope is to have the project complete for summer of 2015.

History and Detail of the Room 
The wallpaper that is being remade is located in Helen’s room. Helen was the middle daughter of the home's original owners, Chester and Clara Congdon. The room’s interior, along with other rooms in the house, was designed by one of the most celebrated interior designers in Minnesota, William A. French. This room is the best example of the Art Nouveau movement in the home and a favorite for many. The Art Nouveau style is showcased by the Quezal light shades, the mosaic tile fireplace, and the floral designs in the woodwork. The wallpaper design compliments that style. Also, the wallpaper brings forward the subtle Asian influence that is prevalent throughout the home. Asian culture was a dominant inspiration at this time in American decorative arts and it inspired the Arts & Crafts movement.

Replica Versus Conserving the Original
Hartman said, “The original wallpaper was examined by professional conservators at the Midwest Art Conservation Center. They determined that it was too heavily damaged to be conserved properly. Their recommendation was to create new wallpaper in the design of the original. Now, because of Lizzy’s help we will be able to fulfill their recommendation. Visitors to Glensheen in the summer of 2015 will get to experience what the room felt like in 1908 when the wallpaper was first put in place. All thanks to Lizzy.”

Siemers said she was pleased to replicate an image exactly with digital art. She said, “It’s really cool how you can preserve history using today’s technology.”'

Glensheen: The Historic Congdon Estate
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Written by Courtney Salmela and Cheryl Reitan. January, 2015.

UMD News Articles | News Releases
Cheryl Reitan, creitan@d.umn.edu


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