So many things happen at the 1900 Farm house all through the year, we sometimes have to plan a shutdown just to get some regular maintenance done. We recently shut the house down for about ten days for maintenance work, specifically, floor painting. Unlike a private home, houses at Living History Farms host thousands of guests every year! That can be tough on the floor paint!
The floors of all five rooms were on the agenda, and we had a little over a week to get everything painted.
I am happy to report that we were able to move the furniture from one side of the house to the other and back again, put two coats of paint on the floor, and get everything cleaned up to welcome dinner guests back. The rooms of the house look considerably different without the furniture in them, and it took some creative puzzling to fit the all the furniture into a few rooms.
As a museum, many of the objects guests see when they visit are historic artifacts. When moving and handling these collections items, a great deal of care has to be taken. The china hutch that sits in the dining room was completely emptied out so it could be gently tipped sideways to get it through the door to the bedroom where it lived for a few days.
We didn’t even attempt to take the pump organ through the door, we were able to maneuver it so that we could paint the corner of the room where it sits, allow the paint to dry, and move the pump organ across the room. We did the same with the stove in the parlor, as it is very heavy to move. If you look very closely, and know where to look, you may be able to see the 2 inch square where the first and second coats of paint don’t match up!
Whenever you take all the furniture out of a room, it seems much bigger. Before we moved everything back into the parlor we had a discussion about how we might modernize the room, if we were to live in the house in modern times. We decided that we wouldn’t even know where to put the TV! Not only is there no wall fit to hang a flat screen, there isn’t much space for modern furniture. Historic homes put stoves or fireplaces at the center of the room, and filled the walls with windows and doors for air flow. Plus, the way that the house was electrified would make a difference with running cords and finding outlets!
Something you may not have known about the 1900 Farm house: it was occupied until the 1970s, when it was moved to Living History Farms. So the house was fitted with electricity while the previous occupants lived in it. After the house became part of the museum, we also added some coil heating to keep items from our historic collections safe and installed a few outlets, which stay hidden for the most part. This allows us to use a modern vacuum after museum hours to safely clean collections items—such as the parlor rug and settee upholstery. Perhaps a future blog post will compare cleaning methods at the turn of the century and today. That’s a story for another time; until then, enjoy the look of the new floors, we are definitely happy with how they turned out.
—Erin, 1900 Farm Domestic Supervisor