If These Walls Could Talk:

Examining Historic Decorative Finishes at the Aiken-Rhett House [WS3]

Through an interdisciplinary approach, this workshop will examine period wall surfaces to better understand nineteenth-century craft practices and technologies as well as conceptions of refinement, patterns of consumption, and decorative preferences. We will explore the topic via lectures, demonstrations, and on-site discussions of historic surfaces at the Aiken-Rhett House, a property owned and operated by Historic Charleston Foundation.  Because of the Foundation’s unique approach to preserving original surfaces rather than restoring them, period finishes and wallpapers—from the mid-19th to 20th centuries—have survived throughout the main house and outbuildings at this site. With a comprehensive understanding gained through our discussions, the Aiken-Rhett House and outbuildings will serve as a living laboratory and excellent location for demonstrations regarding period wall finishes and decorative treatments.


Day 1

Wednesday, October 3
8:00–5:00    Lectures and discussion at Historic Charleston Foundation
5:00–6:00      Reception

Day 2
Thursday, October 4
8:00–5:00      Demonstrations, hands-on experiences and panel discussion at the Aiken-Rhett House
5:00               Adjourn 

Skill Level: Beginner and Intermediate
Fee: $300 Includes: Breakfasts, Lunches, Materials, Wed Night Reception
Location: Historic Charleston Foundation Headquarters, 40 East Bay; Aiken-Rhett House Museum, 48 Elizabeth Street
Transportation: Walkable
Dress Code:  Casual with comfortable shoes.
Recommended equipment: Notebook and camera
Maximum Attendance: 30
Handicap Accessibility: Fully accessible on day one and limited accessibility on day two.
Continuing Education Credits: Yes
Workshop Coordinator: Brandy S. Culp, Curator of Historic Charleston Foundation, Charleston, SC, USA


  • Susan Buck, Conservator of Painted Surfaces and Architectural Materials, VA, USA
  • Willie Graham, Curator of Architecture, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, VA, USA
  • Carl Lounsbury, Senior Architectural Historian, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, VA, USA
  • T.K. McClintock, Studio TKM, Conservation of Fine Art and Historic Works on Paper, Sommerville, MA, USA [tentative]
  • Matt Webster, Architectural Conservator and Manager of Architectural Collections for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, VA, and former Director of Preservation at Drayton Hall, Charleston, SC, USA

Learning objectives:

  • Provide a historical overview of wall surfaces and decorative trends in the nineteenth century.
  • Demonstrate the analytical, philosophical, and applied processes involved in wall surface conservation and restoration, especially for historic paint and limewash, wallpaper, and plaster.
  • Discuss the importance of interdisciplinary approaches in the investigation of historic wall surfaces.
  • Explore courses of action in the preservation of historic wall surfaces and gain an understanding of the various specialists, who work to preserve, conserve, and restore period surfaces.


APT-PTN 2012 is sponsored by: